Panama tops Aruba in CU20 opener
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Ismael Diaz (#9) scored two goals in Panama's win over Aruba in the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on January 9, 2015, in Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo: Mexsport)

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Panama took the first three points on offer at the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, defeating Aruba 4-0 in the tournament opener on Friday at the National Stadium.

Ismael Diaz struck for a brace, while Ervin Zorrilla and Edson Samms added a goal each.

The win gives the Panamanians at least temporary sole possession of first place in Group A with two other encounters -- United States-Guatemala and Jamaica-Trinidad & Tobago – to follow later in the evening.

It was Aruba’s first-ever appearance in the competition and Panama, which finished first in Central American qualifying, tried to take advantage of that inexperience from the outset.

In the 19th minute, Edson Samms was looking to make a run up the middle towards the Aruba box.  The ball was poked away from behind, but Diaz was able collect it and calmly slot a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Jeanmarc Antersun for a 1-0 lead.

Eight minutes later, the dangerous Diaz used the outside of his right foot to crash an effort off the crossbar from 13-yards out.

It wouldn’t take much longer, though, for the Central Americans to make it 2-0.  Jhamal Rodriguez’s right-sided cross from inside the penalty area was met by Zorrilla, whose initial attempt rebounded off Diaz.  The ball fell fortuitously for Zorrilla, who pounded the 30th minute follow-up off the crossbar and over the line.

With 10 minutes left in the half, Panama put the game out of reach for all intents and purposes.  Michael Murillo delivered a cross from the right into the penalty box that eluded a teammate and a defender, but Samms was there to volley it home with authority.

Just six minutes following the break, Panama would complete the scoreline.  After a neat combination with Richard Rodriguez near the top of the box, Diaz found the back of the net with a sweeping right-footed shot from 13 yards.

The sides return to action on Sunday as Aruba will face Trinidad & Tobago and Panama will square off against the United States.