Cristian Gamboa (pictured) celebrates after setting up Costa Rica's first goal in a World Cup Qualifying win over host Trinidad & Tobago on November 11, 2016, in Port of Spain. (Photo: FIFA.com)
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago – Cristian Bolaños scored a goal and assisted on another as Costa Rica opened play in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a 2-0 victory over host Trinidad & Tobago on Friday at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
The Ticos remained unbeaten in the competition, improving to 6W-1D-0L, while T&T failed to win in a third straight outing.
Earlier in the day, Panama kicked off the Hexagonal with a 1-0 win over host. Mexico will visit the United States later in the evening.
Costa Rica capitalized on a break down in the Trinidad defense to take a 1-0 lead in the 65th minute. From the right edge of the six-yard box, a determined Cristian Gamboa delivered the ball to the completely unmarked Bolaños, who had time to take a touch before tapping into a wide open net with his right foot from two-yards out.
In the second minute of stoppage time, Ronald Matarrita netted an insurance goal. Joel Campbell lifted a beautifully weighted ball into the path Bolaños. The Vancouver Whitecaps standout drew in a pair of defenders at the top of the box and then slipped a pass to the right, where Matarrita was stationed. He calmly looked up, before poking a left-footed shot past stranded goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams from 12 yards.
T&T had opportunities to end a WCQ scoreless streak that was eventually extended to 218 minutes.
In the 32nd minute, the dangerous Jomal Williams blazed just over the crossbar from the top of the box off a spectacular, right-footed side volley. Eight minutes into the second half, he barely missed on connecting with a lunge after Joevin Jones did well to whip in a cross from the right.
With Costa Rica leading 1-0, a left-footed effort by Carlyle Mitchell looked destined for the lower-left corner, but a diving save by goalkeeper Keylor Navas preserved the clean sheet.
The Central American champion also generated other opportunities as Celso Borges nodded wide of the right post in the 17th minute and, with six minutes remaining in the first half, Kendall Waston's bounced header forced a flailing Williams to swat away the ball for a corner kick.
Next up for Costa Rica is a Tuesday encounter with the visiting USA. T&T will travel to Honduras for a meeting between two sides looking to bounce back from losses.