WASHINGTON — Panama advanced to the Gold Cup semifinal thanks to a 5-3 penalty-kick shootout win over El Salvador Sunday evening.
A dramatic and controversial equalizer by Panama’s Luis Tejada in the game’s dying minutes canceled out Rodolfo Zelaya’s penalty kick in front of a crowd of 45,423 at RFK Stadium. The two sides drew 1-1 after 120 minutes.
Panama showed lethal form in penalties, converting all five spot kicks to advance to a semifinal matchup against the United States. El Salvador's Dennis Alas missed the first kick of the deciders, and his team could never catch up.
Down a goal and needing to tie to keep their Gold Cup run going late in the game, Panama threw all their big men forward and began dumping long balls in, hoping to equalize. It paid off in the 90th minute in frenetic circumstances. A Blas Pérez cross was tipped up by Salvadoran ‘keeper Miguel Montes, and Tejada bundled the rebound into Montes’ hands — but the ‘keeper was standing in the goal, and the ball was ruled over the line by the assistant referee.
It was high drama, especially after El Salvador had taken the lead just minutes before.
The crowd came to life in the 78th minute when Zelaya was brought down in the box, and stepped up to take his second penalty of the day. This time, he made no mistake, sending the adopted home crowd into a frenzy, and giving El Salvador a 1-0 lead.
It was Zelaya’s penalty flub in the 22nd minute — it was saved easily by Panamanian ‘keeper Jaime Penedo — that had kept Panama in the game. The penalty was awarded when Rudis Corrales was taken down in the Panama box by defender Luis Henríquez.
Aside from rare thrusts forward by the Salvadorans, Panama enjoyed the run of play, leaning on hulking forward Pérez to generate most of the offense. The forward had numerous chances, but Montes made a number of tidy saves to keep the game scoreless.
After the break, it was more of the same from both sides. El Salvador engineered a few nice scoring sequences, including a Zelaya free kick that went just over the bar in the 58th minute.
Once Panama had absorbed El Salvador’s pressure, they once again looked to Pérez and Armando Cooper to try and break the deadlock. But the Steve Purdy-led Salvadoran defense held firm for much of the half, with desperate defending keeping Pérez off the score sheet.
In between the end of extra time and half time, El Salvador’s Luis Anaya and Panama’s Pérez were both shown red cards after a skirmish. Pérez won’t be available for the semifinal against the USA.
With each side down a man, a wide-open game became even more of a back and forth affair in extra time. Substitute Arturo Alvarez looked to spur on El Salvador’s attack, while Panama countered effectively despite not having Pérez.
The best chance of the extra time came to Panama on a sequence of corner kicks, but El Salvador defenders blocked two shots off the line. Purdy had a chance at the last second that went begging, and the game went to penalties at the end of extra time.
ELS -- Rodolfo Zelaya (penalty kick) 78
PAN -- Luis Tejada (unassisted) 90
Penalty Kicks Summary (After 120 minutes):
PAN -- Nelson Barahona, Goal
ELS -- Denis Alas, Saved
PAN -- Luis Renteria, Goal
ELS -- William Osael Romero, Goal
PAN -- Anibal Godoy, Goal
ELS -- Rodolfo Zelaya, Goal
PAN -- Amilcar Henriquez, Goal
ELS -- Andres Flores, Goal
PAN -- Luis Tejada, Goal
ELS -- Reynaldo Hernandez (caution; Reckless Tackle) 41
ELS -- Luis Anaya (caution; Tactical Foul) 50+
PAN -- Felipe Baloy (caution; Reckless Foul) 51
PAN -- Roman Torres (caution; Reckless Tackle) 77
ELS -- William Osael Romero (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 81
ELS -- Luis Anaya (ejection; Abusive Language) 91
PAN -- Blas Perez (ejection; Abusive Language) 91
PAN -- Luis Renteria (caution; Reckless Foul) 97
PAN -- Amilcar Henriquez (caution; Reckless Foul) 11
El Salvador -- Miguel Montes, Luis Anaya, Reynaldo Hernandez (William Osael Romero 46), Steve Purdy, Xavier Garcias, Jaime Alas (Andres Flores 86), Denis Alas, Eliseo Quintanilla (Arturo Alvarez 68), Victor Turcios, Rudis Corrales, Rodolfo Zelaya.
Substitutes Not Used: Dagoberto Portillo, Mark Lester Blanco, Edwin Sanchez, Ramon Sanchez.
Panama -- Jaime Penedo, Adolfo Machado, Felipe Baloy, Luis Henriquez (Luis Renteria 85), Roman Torres, Gabriel Gomez (Anibal Godoy 80), Nelson Barahona, Armando Cooper (Alberto Quintero 79), Amilcar Henriquez, Blas Perez, Luis Tejada.
Substitutes Not Used: Luis Mejia, Harold Cummings, Eduardo Dasent, Aramis Haywood.
Referee: Walter Quesada
Referee's Assistants: Leonel Leal; Oscar Velasquez
4th Official: David Gantar
Time of Game: 2:48
Weather: Cloudy and 84 degrees