Panama tops Nicaragua, finishes second in Group B

Roman Torres (#5) celebrates after scoring in Panama's 2-0 Central American Cup win against Nicaragua on September 10, 2014, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Mexsport)

HOUSTON – Panama posted a 2-0 win over Nicaragua in the Central American Cup (CCA) on Wednesday at BBVA Compass Stadium, but fell one goal short of forcing a drawing of lots with Costa Rica for a place in the tournament’s final.

The Canaleros as Group B runner-up will contest the match for third place against the Group A runner-up on Saturday in Los Angeles and have also earned a berth in their sixth consecutive CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Blas Perez and Roman Torres scored late second-half goals within seconds of each other for the victory. 

In a match that looked destined to finish scoreless, Perez gave Panama a 1-0 lead in the 81st minute.  Nicaragua struggled to clear from inside its own box, ultimately kicking the ball in the direction of Gabriel Torres, who was stationed beyond 18 yards on the right.  The 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup’s co-Golden Boot winner fired towards the net, only for Perez to stick out a foot and redirect into the back of Nicaragua’s net from close range.

One minute later, Eric Davis delivered a corner kick from the left side that Torres rose high to head home to double the advantage.

Needing another goal to have any chance of reaching the championship match, the Panamanians attacked relentlessly.  Their best opportunity came in the 90th minute, when Darwin Pinzon’s lashed attempt from 12-yards out was saved stunningly by goalkeeper Justo Lorente.

Panama had multiple chances throughout the evening, but either found Lorente in sizzling form or lacked the required touch. 

It should have went ahead just before the hour mark.  Referee Walter Lopez pointed to the penalty spot after Roman Torres was brought down in the Nicaraguan box by captain David Solorzano.  In the interim, Pinzon entered the match as a substitute for Roberto Nurse and immediately went to take the kick, which Lorente subsequently saved.

In a remarkable sequence just minutes earlier, Lorente superbly thwarted Nurse twice in quick-fire fashion, before a third effort was skied over the crossbar.

On Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Costa Rica will play in its six consecutive CCA final against the Group A champion, while Nicaragua will face Group A’s third-place side for the chance to meet the Caribbean’s fifth-place team in a playoff for one last Gold Cup berth.

 To view the Highlights of this game, click here.