FRISCO, Texas – Panama came into the opening match of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup looking to build on their surprise runner-up finish from two years ago. Underdog Haiti, however, had other ideas, and used a late equalizer to earn a share of the spoils after a 1-1 draw Tuesday night at Toyota Stadium.
The deciding goal came in the 85th minute when Haitian substitute Duckens Nazon made a slicing run through the Panamanian defense for a one-on-one opportunity with goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. And the reserve forward bested the LA Galaxy ‘keeper with a nutmegged shot that left Panama and FC Dallas striker Blas Perez scrambling for a game winner that never came.
The Panamanian goal came in the 56th minute on a failed clearance attempt by the Haiti defense, setting up Alberto Quintero with an open look on goal. And he made no mistake, firing a laser from the left corner of the penalty box past Haitian ‘keeper Johny Placide into the far corner.
Haiti nearly first tied the match just two minutes Quintero’s goal, when midfielder Jeff Louis cut inside the penalty box and got a slow ball past Penedo. But Panamanian defender Adolfo Machado was trailing the play and was able to clear the ball over his own net to prevent the equalizer.
Outside of two Haiti shot attempts in the 12th and 33rd minutes that both soared over the crossbar, Panama possessed the ball for much of match, with countless scoring opportunities inside the Haitian penalty box throughout a scoreless first half.
Perhaps the Panamanian’s cleanest attempt in the opening 45 came in the 28th minute when forward Luis Tejada lobbed a pass to Quintero in the penalty box. The midfielder was alone while cutting toward the net, but Tejada’s pass went just out of the reach of Quintero’s right foot, resulting in one of many missed opportunities for Panama.
Tejada also fired off a couple of fancy bicycle kicks, one among four Panamanian on-target shots in the first half and the other zipping wide right.
Four yellow cards, two going to each side, also highlighted a very physical first half that consisted of 19 fouls between both squads – 13 of which came from the Haitian side. Tempers calmed in the second half, however, as both teams finished with 11 men.
With Group A moving to Foxborough on Friday, Panama will square off against Honduras while Haiti will face the United States.