Roman Torres (pictured) celebrates after scoring the goal that qualified Panama for its first-ever World Cup on October 10, 2017, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo: Israel Zapateiro)
PANAMA CITY, Panama – Panama (3W-4D-3L, 13 points) got a goal from Roman Torres with two minutes left in normal time to earn a 2-1 win over visiting Costa Rica and secure a first-ever FIFA World Cup berth in the last match for each in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying on Tuesday at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
The Panamanians finished in third place, good enough to claim the region’s third and last direct qualifying spot. They join first-place Mexico (6-3-1, 21) and second-place Costa Rica (4W-4D-2L, 16 points) next year in Russia. Fourth-place Honduras (3-4-3, 13), which handed the Mexicans their first loss of qualifying, 3-2, will face Australia in an intercontinental playoff next month.
In the 88th minute, Torres capped off a stunning night by racing into the box and behind defender Michael Umaña to reach Luis Tejada's header, and beat goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton with his right foot from eight-yards out.
Johan Venegas gave Costa Rica a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute, cleverly lifting the ball from 11-yards out over charging goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
Panama leveled through Gabriel Torres seven minutes into the second half. Gabriel Gomez delivered a right-sided corner kick in close proximity to the right corner of the six-yard box. In an effort to clear with his head, Celso Borges missed the ball, as did goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton’s two-fisted punch. It fell to Torres, whose back-heel flick was ruled to have crossed the line at the left post as teammate Blas Perez and Costa Rica defender Ronald Matarrita converged.
Last Friday, Panama fell 4-0 at the now-eliminated United States, but bounced back with a performance that saw it finish the Hexagonal unbeaten at home (2W-3D-0L).