Haiti rallied from an early deficit to score twice after halftime and defeat Costa Rica 2-1 to top Group B in a thrilling display of attacking soccer Monday night at Red Bull Arena.
The Ticos jumped ahead in the 13th minute on an own goal by Haiti right back Djimy Bend Alexis. The sequence started when New York City FC’sRonald Matarrita served a ball toward the back post headed in front of goal by Keysher Fuller.
Former Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio latched on and put his header off Bend Alexis’ chest and into the Haitian net.
Costa Rica had a chance to double its lead just before the half-hour mark, but defender Jems Geffrard cleared a shot by FC Cincinnati midfielder Allan Cruz off the line after it deflected off Haitian goalkeeper Johny Placide.
After Haiti had a penalty shout waved away by referee Ismail Elfath in the 41st minute, Les Grenadiers were awarded a spot kick in the 56th minute when Chicago Fire defender Francisco Calvo barged over Duckens Nazon inside the top edge of the 18-yard box. Nazon clinically buried his penalty into the corner of the net, as the large Haitian crowd exploded.
Needing a win to top the group, Haiti pressed the issue and had the Costa Rican defense on its heels for much of the second half. The Ticos finally cracked in the 81st minute when Matarrita couldn’t manage a low cross from Alex Christian and the ball went off the NYCFC defender’s foot to Alexis, who atoned for his own goal by firing the winner under the crossbar.
- 13’ — CRC — Djimy Bend Alexis (own goal)
- 56’ — HAI — Duckens Nazon (PK)
- 81’ — HAI — Djimy Bend Alexis
- THE BIG PICTURE: More of this please. It ultimately backfired, but Costa Rica didn’t play for the draw and instead pushed for the win. And with Haiti doing the same, it resulted in scintillating end-to-end action throughout much of the match.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Red Bull Arena exploded when Alexis blasted in the winner as Haiti won a Gold Cup group for the first time ever.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: From goat to hero, credit is due to Alexis, the 21-year-old who competes for Capoise in the Haitian league.
- HAI: Saturday, June 29 vs. Canada (7 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN, Fox Sports GO)
- CRC: Saturday, June 29 vs. Mexico (9:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN, Fox Sports GO)