CHICAGO – El Salvador stormed out to an early lead and never looked back in their CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A finale Sunday afternoon, trouncing Cuba 6-1 at Soldier Field.
Forward Rodolfo Zelaya scored twice for Los Cuscatlecos, who stay in third place in Group A on four points. El Salvador trail second-place Costa Rica — who play Mexico later Sunday night – on goal difference.
El Salvador will advance to the knockout stages if they finish in second in Group A or if they end the group stage as one of the tournament’s top-two third-place teams.
The loss officially eliminates Cuba from contention.
Zelaya put El Salvador ahead in the 13th minute. Midfielder Osrael Romero intercepted a Cuban clearance deep in the final third, quickly playing a square ball to Zelaya at the top of the 18. The unmarked striker took a couple of touches and hit a speculative shot from just inside the arc, rolling the ball past poorly positioned Cuba goalie Julio Ramos Pichardo and inside the right post for his second goal of the tournament.
Zelaya should’ve doubled El Salvador’s lead in the 20th. After a mazy run across the top of the box, Zelaya freed himself for a shot with a nice cutback. He teed the ball up and tried to pick out the top right corner, but fired his 12-yard right footer well over the target.
Romero put El Salvador up 2-0 in the 29th. He collected a loose ball just outside the right side of the box, dribbling toward the end line before nicely chipping his shot inside the far post from a tight angle.
Cuba nearly pulled one back seconds later. Forward Marcel Hernandez was played behind El Salvador’s back line immediately after the kickoff, but he couldn’t finish his one-on-one with goalie Miguel Montes, hitting a weak 12-yarder that Montes kept out.
El Salvador had another chance in the 33rd. Zelaya smashed a 25-yard free kick toward goal from the right wing and Ramos Pichardo couldn’t hold it, giving up a rebound that midfielder Dennis Alas scuffed over the bar from four yards out.
Cuba got behind El Salvador’s defense again in the 35th. Unmarked midfielder Alberto Gomez had time to collect a chipped ball in the middle of the box, but decided to try and head it and ended up completely missing.
After a slow start to the second half, forward Lester Blanco put El Salvador up 3-0 in the 69th. The second-half substitute, who had come on only seconds before, collected a bouncing ball in the middle of the box, side-volleying it home from 10 yards.
Zelaya made it 4-0 with his second goal of the game just two minutes later. He collected a ball on the left wing, cutting into the box with his right foot before blasting a 15-yard shot into the top left corner.
Cuban defender Yenier Marquez scored a consolation goal in the 83rd, heading a free kick from the right flank inside the far post from the penalty spot.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Arturo Alvarez restored El Salvador’s four-goal advantage with a spectacular strike less than a minute after Cuba’s goal. Alvarez, who came on in the second half, worked a nice give and go with Eliseo Quintanilla on the left side of the box, eventually smashing a low shot inside the far post with a first-time shot from an incredibly tight angle.
Quintanilla made it 6-1 deep into second half stoppage time, curling a hard 15-yard shot inside the far post with his left foot.
Portland Timbers defender Steve Purdy did not make the bench for El Salvador.
- MLS LIVE