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Panama edges Honduras in Hexagonal opener
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Action from the World Cup qualifier between Panama and host Honduras (white jersey) on November 11, 2016, in San Pedro Sula. (Photo: FIFA.com)

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – Panama kicked off play in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a 1-0 win over host Honduras on Friday at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano.

The result provisionally lifted the Canaleros to the top of the six-team table with Costa Rica-Trinidad & Tobago and USA-Mexico encounters to follow later in the evening.

Fidel Escobar scored the only goal in the 22nd minute, when his right-footed free kick from 22-yards out took a slight deflection off Honduras’ Romell Quioto before hitting the back of the net.

Although other chances were hard to come by in the first half, both sides were more dangerous after the break and were unlucky to not generate additional goals.

In the 57th minute, Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo produced two outstanding stops. He made a diving save off a Diego Reyes effort from the right side of the box and, seconds later, the 35-year-old custodian thwarted Alberth Elis at point-blank range.

Blas Perez had an opportunity to double Panama’s advantage in the 57th minute, only to miss way wide of the near-left post despite being completely unmarked in the box.

Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober maintained his side’s hopes in the 65th minute. The Olimpia standout first blocked Alberto Quintero’s initial attempt and then dived at the left post to prevent the ball from crossing the line as the midfielder tried to slot home his own rebound.

Elis had an opportunity to equalize in the 89th minute, but was unable to connect from the right side of the box.

Panama returns to action on Tuesday by welcoming Mexico to the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, while Honduras will stay in San Pedro Sula for a visit from Trinidad & Tobago.

NOTES: Panama is unbeaten in its last five World Cup qualifiers against Honduras (3W-2D-0L) … Honduras’ last WCQ win over Panama came at home on May 7, 2000 (3-1).

 
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