Olympic Qualifying: Najar delivers Honduras' tix to London
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – D.C. United's Andy Najar delivered the setup, and Gerson Rodas made it count in extratime. And Los Catrachos are headed to London
Rodas headed home Najar's cross in the 115th minute to give Honduras a 3-2 victory over El Salvador in the first semifinal of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament on Saturday. It was Rodas' second goal of the extratime period, which also saw El Salvador get a goal through Edwin Sánchez.
The win gives Honduras, the Group B runners-up to Mexico, their second straight Olympic berth and third overall. El Salvador, the surprise Group A champions, have not qualified since 1968.
As frenzied as the finish of the match was, it opened with equal excitement. Honduras' Antony Lozano scored just 45 seconds in after a badly headed clearance by El Salvador’s Milton Molina dropped the ball right at his feet. Lozano worked into a bit of open space, then caromed his shot off the left post to give Honduras the early lead.
That’s how things stood until the 77th minute, when Molina atoned for the miscue by heading home a corner kick from Jaime Alas – the midfielder whose goal last Monday put the Salvadorans into the semifinals and eliminated the US Olympic team.
After the fulltime whistle, things really got crazy. Rodas gave Honduras a 2-1 lead in the 101st minute, beating Alas to Alexander López’s cross and heading the ball past ’keeper Diego Cuellar.
But Sánchez replied for El Salvador just five minutes later. On level terms, the Salvadorans pressed with confidence and Honduras ’keeper José Mendoza had to stop shots from Herbert Sosa and Sánchez in the 109th to keep El Salvador from taking the lead for the first time.
It looked like the match was destined for penalties until Najar picked up the ball on the right side with just five minutes to play. He fired in a perfect ball from the right corner, and Rodas connected at the far post. For the second time on the night, his header beat Cuellar, advancing Honduras to Monday's tournament final, and more importantly booking their ticket to the Olympic Games.