Spirited Panama knots Argentina at U-20 World Cup

Carlos Small (#18) was a key figure for Panama in its draw with Argentina in the FIFA U-20 World Cup on May 30, 2015, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Panama rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits to draw 2-2 with Argentina in the FIFA U-20 World Cup on Saturday at Westpac Stadium.

Fidel Escobar netted the last goal late in a riveting encounter, giving the CONCACAF runner-up only its third point in 13 all-time U-20 World Cup games.  Eight years ago, the Canaleros suffered a 6-0 setback to Argentina in the same competition.  

Later in the day, Austria and Ghana fought to a 1-1 stalemate, leaving all four Group B teams level on one point each after the first day of play. 

Angel Correra was the star for Argentina, scoring both of its goals.  The Atletico Madrid youth standout gave the South American champion a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute, playing a give-and-go Tomas Martinez and firing home unmarked from 10-yards out.  He capitalized on a mistake by goalkeeper Jaime De Gracia and the resulting confusion in the Panamanian defense in the 79th minute to roll a ball from the edge of the 18-yard-box into a gaping net. 

Panama, though, proved to be resilient, showing the form that saw it complete the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship with an unbeaten record (5W-1D-0L).

Jhamal Rodriguez made it 1-1 in the 19th minute with an early candidate for the best goal of the tournament.  The Chorrillo FC midfielder latched onto a ball poked into the middle, took a touch and unleashed a right-footed rocket just underneath the crossbar from 27-yards out. 

With six minutes remaining in normal time, Escobar connected with Carlos Small’s cross from the left side of the box to pound it into the back of the net for the equalizer. 

Small then had an opportunity to strike for the game-winner, but he shot wide right from 20 yards after breaking down the middle alone.

Panama returns to action on Tuesday against Austria.