EAST RUTHERFORD, United States: Mexico and Panama advanced to a Gold Cup semifinals showdown with triumphs Sunday (Monday in Manila), one thanks to a dramatic save and the other on a penalty kick after a controversial call.
Mexican captain Andres Guardado scored the lone goal from the spot in the 124th minute to lift Mexico over Costa Rica 1-0 while Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo denied Lester Peltier in the ninth round of penalty kicks as the Canaleros advanced 6-5 over Trinidad and Tobago after a 1-1 draw.
“I feel real joy because today was a real blessing to be able to advance to the next round,” Penedo said.
After losing 2-1 to Panama in last year’s semifinals, six-time champion Mexico will seek revenge and an eighth trip to the finals of the biennial North American regional football championship when they meet again on Wednesday in Atlanta.
That winner earns a berth in next Sunday’s finals at Philadelphia against the winner of Wednesday’s other semifinals between Jamaica and holders United States.
After more than two hours of goal-less football, Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez whistled a hotly contested foul on Costa Rica’s Roy Miller following Mexican striker Oribe Peralta hurling himself onto the ground trying to reach a crossing pass.
“I’m happy with the effort of the players,” Mexican coach Miguel Herrera said. “We were superior. We made an important step.”
The phantom foul brought Guardado to the spot and he blasted the ball into the left side of the net for the victory, delivering the only loss of the event for Costa Rica, which reached the World Cup quarterfinals last year in Brazil.
Costa Rica coach Paulo Wanchope said he did not feel as if his job was in jeopardy after the defeat.
“I do not feel out of the team by being eliminated,” he said. “My players should be proud of how they played. Some of them were exhausted.”
Panama advanced to a third consecutive semifinals, having lost to the United States in 2011 before beating Mexico in 2013, only to fall to the Americans in the final.
Sunday marked the fourth match in a row in which Panama took the lead only to surrender the equalizer in the second half, having advanced from the group stage on three 1-1 draws.