Costa Rica, Nicaragua wrangle to stalemate

Action from the Copa Centroamericana match between Costa Rica (white jersey) and Nicaragua on January 17, 2017, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

PANAMA CITY, Panama. – Costa Rica (1W-2D-0L, 5 points) and Nicaragua (0-1-2, 1) battled to a 0-0 draw in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana at Estadio Rommel Fernandez on Tuesday.

The two-time defending champion Costa Ricans remain in second place, one point behind Honduras (2-0-0, 6), which will meet tournament host Panama (1-1-0, 4) later in the evening. Nicaragua secured its first point and move into fifth place ahead of Belize (0-1-2, 1) on goal difference (-2 to -5).

The top four teams automatically qualify for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, while the fifth-place team faces Haiti in a two-legged playoff to determine the final Gold Cup berth.

The first quality scoring chance of a scoreless first half came to Randall Azofeifa, but the Costa Rica midfielder’s 25-yard free kick was parried over the bar by Nicaraguan goalkeeper Diedrich Tellez for the game’s first corner kick.

Azofeifa was dangerous with another set piece just past the half-hour mark, sending an in-swinging corner kick across the face of goal. Johan Venegas just missed heading the ball at the back post.

Minutes before halftime, Venegas took a heavy first touch in the box, forcing a tough angled shot from eight-yards out that went off the outside netting.

In the 60th minute, Venegas blasted a high shot from 20 yards out that Tellez had difficulty saving. The rebound fell to John Ruiz, but the midfielder was ruled to have been in an offside position to end the Ticos’ threat.

Nicaragua, which qualified for the CONCACAF Gold Cup just once after a fifth-place finish in 2009, had its only scoring chance in the 86th minute, when Elvis Figueroa settled a cross by Daniel Cadena, only to see his attempt from the left side of the box bounce into Costa Rican goalkeeper Danny Carvajal.

Costa Rica extended its Copa unbeaten streak to 11 straight games (7-4-0), while Nicaragua didn’t win for the 13th consecutive time in the competition (0-3-10)

What’s Next?
Both sides return to action on Friday, with Nicaragua taking on Belize and Costa Rica facing Honduras.