Defense, clutch scoring boost Honduras in Copa

Honduras' Erick Andino (pictured) has a goal and an assist in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Thanks to a 1-0 win over Panama on Tuesday, Honduras can clinch its fourth Copa Centroamericana title with a draw against two-time defending champion Costa Rica on Matchday 4.

The Friday encounter will pit the competition’s two most successful sides against other at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

While the pressure to lift the trophy may still exist for the Hondurans, they have been relieved of the burden of qualifying for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup; overcoming host Panama took care of that matter.

“We worked well,” Honduras head coach Jorge Luis Pinto said after the game. “I have to publicly congratulate Honduras for their personality because they played a brave match. I have to acknowledge that Panama is not easy here.”

Once again, the Honduras defense proved to be stout when it most counted. The Catrachos have conceded one of fewer goals in 21 of their last 22 Copa Centroamericana matches.

Up front, Eddie Hernandez’s scoring acumen was on display, as recent Tolima signing calmly converted a 36th-minute penalty kick for the game’s lone goal. Hernandez is level with teammate Rubilio Castillo and Costa Rica’s Jose Guillermo Ortiz atop the Copa’s scoring chart with two goals each.

Yet for Pinto, it was critical that Honduras kept Panama’s dangerous attack under wraps.

“It was a hard match for both. It was a match of ability, of temperament,” finished the Colombian, who guided Costa Rica to a pair of Copa crowns. “At many times we played well and not at others. We controlled them well. We beat them well on crosses. I think that we leave happy about what the boys did.”