Cristian Bolaños (pictured) celebrates after scoring against visiting Panama in a World Cup qualifier on September 6, 2016, in San Jose. (Photo: FIFA.com)
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Cristian Bolaños scored a goal in each half and Costa Rica earned a 3-1 win over Panama to complete the fourth round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Ticos (5W-1D-0L, 16 points) finished atop Group B, six points ahead of second-place Panama (3-1-2, 10). Both sides had previously earned berths in the Hexagonal.
Ronald Matarrita also scored for the host, which preserved the shutout until Luis Tejada converted a late penalty kick.
Costa Rica went ahead 1-0 simply in the 19th minute, when Bolaños -- from 13-yards out in the left side of the box – snapped a low, right-footed shot that skidded along the grass and off the near post, beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Jose Calderon.
Bolaños made it 2-0 in the 79th minute, racing into the left side of the box off Johan Venegas’ slightly glanced header and pounding a left-footed shot that hit the hands of Calderon, but was still powerful enough to blaze inside the left post.
Matarrita netted an insurance tally in the 84th minute off a counterattack, before Panama’s Tejada struck from the spot in the last minute of normal time. It was the first goal Costa Rica had conceded in three qualifiers.
Costa Rica will open the final round of qualifying on November 11 at Trinidad & Tobago, while Panama visit Honduras.