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Gamboa goal lifts Costa Rica past Haiti in WCQ
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Costa Rica's Cristian Gamboa (pictured) celebrates after scoring against visiting Haiti in a World Cup qualifier on November 13, 2015, in San Jose. (Photo: Mexsport)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Cristian Gamboa scored in the first half and Costa Rica opened its qualifying campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Friday with a 1-0 win over visiting Haiti in a fourth round, Group B encounter at the Estadio Nacional.

The victory may have come at a cost to the Central American champion, which saw key midfielder Celso Borges suffer a possible injury to his left foot near the end of the first half that required a substitution. An update on the status of the Deportivo La Coruña standout was expected by morning.

In the 28th minute, however, the Brazil 2014 quarterfinalist netted the game’s only goal off a beautifully crafted play.

A neat give-and-go between Ronald Matarrita and Joel Campbell on the left resulted in an open Johan Venegas attempting a low, right-footed shot from just outside the box that appeared to deflect off a Haitian defender. The slight change of direction caused the ball to ricochet off goalkeeper Johny Placide and roll to the right edge of the six-yard box, where the hustling Gamboa fired into the back of the net.

With regular goalkeeper Keylor Navas missing the match due to an injury, Costa Rica called on Patrick Pemberton to fill the Real Madrid star’s large shoes. At end of the opening half, the 33-year-old justified his selection by head coach Oscar Ramirez, leaping right to somehow push Duckens Nazon’s header from 13-yards out off the left the post.

Costa Rica will look for its second straight victory, when it visits Panama on Tuesday, while Haiti will host Jamaica the same day.

 
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