CARSON, Calif. – Mexico and Honduras are now just one win away from securing a berth in the 2012 Olympic Games after the two nations picked up victories in the final night of Group B play on Tuesday at The Home Depot Center.
A stoppage time goal by Chivas de Guadalajara forward Erick Torres was the difference as Mexico defeated a stubborn Panama side 1-0, while in the earlier match, Honduras tallied two goals to defeat Trinidad and Tobago, securing their spot in the semifinals.
Following Tuesday’s results, the matchups are set for Saturday’s semifinal round at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. El Salvador take on archrival Honduras in the early game (6 pm ET), while Mexico will face Canada (9 pm ET) with a pair of berths in London Games on the line.
In the nightcap, Mexico head coach Luis Fernando Tena opted for a primarily reserve lineup, sitting players like Marco Fabián and Alan Pulido, who tallied hat tricks in the first and second matches, respectively.
Fighting for pride, Panama almost took an early lead as they piled on the pressure forcing to make Mexican goalkeeper Liborio Sánchez to make a number of spectacular saves to preserve the shutout. Sánchez’s finest moment came in the 15th minute, turning away a pair of shots in quick succession by Panamanian attackers to preserve the shutout.
As Mexico’s reserve squad struggled to generate offense, Panama dominated possession in hopes of scoring their first victory of the tournament. In hopes of reviving a stagnant offense, Tena inserted Fabián in the 62nd minute for David Cabrera.
Although Panama’s defense put up a brave fight, Mexico broke through in the 91st minute when a cross by Javier Cortés was re-directed by Jeronimno Amione onto the path of Torres. With just the goalkeeper in front of him, the Chivas man easily slotted a shot past Panama 'keeper Luis Mejía. With the goal, Mexico ended the group play outscoring their opponents 11-1.
In the opening match of the night, Honduras took the lead in the 37th minute when Wilmer Crisanto whipped in a cross that deflected off the boot of Anthony Lozano, floating up perfectly for Catrachos striker Eddie Hernández, who headed in the opener.
Just minutes before the end of the half, Trinidad nearly had their equalizer when Shahdon Winchester’s shot was saved by Honduran goalkeeper Andre Marchan. While Trinidad continued to pile on pressure in search of the equalizing goal, it was Honduras who doubled their lead.
In the 70th minute of play, D.C. United midfielder Andy Najar fired a cross to Hernández that the goalscorer headed to the lurking Lozano, who punched it in from close range. Despite a two-goal lead, Honduras pressed forward for a third, but were denied repeatedly by steady goalkeeping from Marchan.
Although Marchan was unable to help the Soca Warriors to the semifinals, the goalkeeper was part of the most dubious state of the tournament as the goalkeeper faced an astounding 77 shots during Trinidad’s three group matches.
Adam Serrano writes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org