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Gold Cup: Panama hold on tight to edge Guadeloupe 3-2

DETROIT — Panama were pushed by 10-man Guadeloupe, but held on for a 3-2 victory in both sides’ Gold Cup opener on Tuesday evening at Ford Field. And although Julio Dely Valdés’ side is rarely mentioned as contenders in Group C, they showed flashes of attacking acumen that might make favorites USA and Canada take pause.

Blas Pérez, Luis Tejada and Gabriel Gómez staked the Panamanians to a three-goal lead by the 57th minute before substitute Brice Jovial ignited the Gwada Boys’ attack and pulled two back to make things interesting.

For Pérez, it was his seventh career goal in the Gold Cup; for Tejada, his sixth.

The opening minutes were congested as both teams worked out their defensive responsibilities. However, Panama finally broke through in the 29th minute with a well-worked set piece. A long throw from the right side was chested down by Tejada, and Pérez calmly side-volleyed his shot into the back of the net.

Just three minutes later, Panama doubled their lead. This time, Tejada did the hard work himself. Collecting the ball at the top of the box, he dribbled into the area, cut back to his left foot to leave two defenders sprawling, and nestled a curling shot into the lower right corner.

In the 38th minute, things got worse for Guadeloupe when right back Mickaël Tacalfred was shown a straight red card after appearing to step on Luis Henríquez after a missed slide tackle from Henríquez.

And yet, they nearly pulled one back just before the half, when Richard Socrier spun on a cross from the right and slammed a volley over the bar. The shot had plenty of power, but needed more accuracy.

Five seconds after the break, Pérez had a goal called back for offside. But there was nothing the officials could do when Pérez was dragged down in the box for the penalty. Gómez’s cheeky chip past Guadeloupe 'keeper Franck Grandel was called back following a Panamanian player’s encroachment, but his second attempt found the net with no trouble.

Jovial pulled one back in the 65th minute to give Guadeloupe hope. After powering his way into the Panama area, he rounded one defender, saw his initial shot saved by goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, and slotted the rebound into the into the open net.

In the 78th minute, Jovial completed his brace to make things even more interesting. A low cross from David Fleurival on the right was collected by Socrier, who spun and fired a shot at the far post. The ball looked set to roll wide until Jovial slid and stretched a toe to redirect it off the post and over the line.

It was not enough, however, as their numerical disadvantage eventually wore them out and Panama clamped down defensively.

The Panamanians next face the United States in Tampa on Saturday. Guadeloupe take on Canada.

LINEUPS
Panama —
Penedo; L. Henriquez, Baloy, Dasent, Machado (Cummings 82’); Barahona (Quintero 77’), Gómez, A. Henríquez, Cooper; Pérez, Tejada (Rentería 66’)
Unused subs: Cummings, Torres, Mejia, Davis, Quintero, Bonaga

Guadeloupe — Grandel; Comminges, Lambourde, Viator, Tacalfred; Collet (Gamiette 60’), Fleurival, Auvray (Racon 74’), Loval; Gendrey (Jovial 48), Socrier
Unused subs: Zubar, Racon, Nabab, Ictoi, Mercury