El Salvador tops Belize as Barahona keys first-half surge
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Juan Barahona (pictured) had a goal and two assists to help El Salvador defeat Belize in the Copa Centroamericana on January 17, 2017, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

PANAMA CITY, Panama – Despite missing two key players through suspension, El Salvador (1W-1D-1L, 4 points) secured all the points for the first time in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana, earning a 3-1 win over Belize (0-1-2, 1) on Tuesday at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

All the goals were scored in the first half, with the Salvadorans taking a 3-0 lead within the opening 23 minutes as Gerson Mayen, Juan Barahona and Henry Romero struck for the first-ever time in the Copa.  Deon McCaulay pulled one back just before halftime to become the first player to find the back of the net in each of the competition’s last three editions.

El Salvador played without star forward Rodolfo Zelaya and defender Alexander Larin, who were shown straight red cards in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to first-place Honduras.

The Alianza duo’s absence seemed to have a galvanizing effect on their teammates as they went ahead 1-0 in the 15th minute on a fairly straightforward play.  Oscar Ceren delivered a cross from the right-goal line, which was headed by Barahona back across the goal to the right post, where Mayen was positioned for the easy header.

Five minutes later, Barahona doubled the Cuscatlecos’ advantage.  Belize allowed a very patient build up that eventually saw Bryan Tamacas roll a pass from the right side of the penalty area to just outside the six-yard box.  Defender Trevor Lennen got a foot on the ball, only for it to head in Barahona’s direction for a left-footed finish from 14-yards out.

Henry Romero made it 3-0 in the 23rd minute, heading Barahona’s right-sided corner kick past helpless goalkeeper Woodrow West from seven yards.

Belize settled down and got on the scoreboard in the 43rd minute.  A splendid through ball by Denmark Casey found McCaulay racing down the middle.  The calm 29-year-old forward rounded goalkeeper Benji Villalobos and fired in a right-footer from five-yards out, extending his team record to five goals.  No other Belizean has more than two in the tournament’s history.

El Salvador, which held a 24-4 advantage in shots attempted, scored three goals for the first time in a Copa match since beating Belize, 5-2 on January 16, 2011, a string of 14 games.  Belize’s Copa winless streak now stands at eight games (0-1-7).

What’s Next?

Both sides return to action on Friday…Belize takes on Nicaragua in pivotal encounter, while El Salvador meets Panama.