- Costa Rica move clear in second in the Hexagonal standings after win
- *Los Ticos *score twice in the first half to beat Trinidad and Tobago
- Panama and Honduras settle for draw after pulsating encounter
THE DAY REPLAYED – Costa Rica moved into sole possession of second place in the Hexagonal standings after an important 2-1 home win over bottom side Trinidad and Tobago, as Matchday 6 wrapped up in CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ on Tuesday evening.
In Panama City, a pulsating back-and-forth encounter saw Panama come back twice to draw 2-2 with central American rivals Honduras. FIFA.com takes a closer look at the latest batch of qualifying action in the region.
Match of the day
It was not lost on Panama and Honduras that claiming maximum points was needed at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez, if either side wanted to strengthen their position in the Hexagonal table. It was the visiting Hondurans that made the brightest start to the contest, taking the lead just five minutes in through Romell Quioto, who converted a tight rebound, following Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo's save, to open the scoring. Four minutes before half-time, Blas Perez fortuitously equalised for Los Canaleros, knocking home a cross from the right with the top of his back.
Honduras restored their advantage around the midway point of the second half when Alberth Elis took a return pass from Rony Martinez before converting at close range for 2-1. The goal prompted another Panamanian response and, after a spell of heavy pressure, Roman Torres popped up in the 90th minute to equalise for the home side with a low drive. However, both sides had to settle for a point that keeps them in the bottom half of the standings.
Costa Rica were keen to make amends for last Thursday’s home draw with Panama when they hosted Trinidad and Tobago at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose. They duly obliged with a pair of first-half goals, starting with Francisco Calvo’s near-post header from the game’s first corner just seconds into the contest. Credit to the Soca Warriors, as they did not let the early setback affect them, with Kevin Molino doing well to beat a diving Keylor Navas in the Costa Rica goal to level matters on 35 minutes. Yet, just before the half-time break, Los Ticos claimed the winner through their captain Bryan Ruiz, who neatly finished with the outside of his left foot from the edge of the box.
Chances were traded after the break, but the scoreline held up to take Oscar Ramirez’s side into sole possession of second place, three points behind leaders Mexico, who drew 1-1 with arch-rivals USA in their highly-anticipated encounter at the Estadio Azteca on Sunday. For Trinidad and Tobago, the task of making Russia 2018 looks more remote after a fifth defeat in this final round of qualifying.
The number 5 – the number of players to find the scoresheet in Tuesday’s CONCACAF zone qualifiers that play for clubs in Major League Soccer (MLS). Honduras’ Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto both ply their trade with Houston Dynamo, while Panama’s Roman Torres plays for Seattle Sounders. Costa Rica’s Francisco Calvo and Trinidad and Tobago’s Kevin Molino are on the books at Minnesota United.
Player of the day
Donis Escobar (HON)
There are times when a team is indebted to its goalkeeper for a result. Honduras will be feeling that way about Donis Escobar after he pulled off some heroic stops to earn *Los Catrachos *a point in Panama City. It included a dramatic goalline clearance from a Panama corner in the second half.
Did you know?
In a career that has spanned nearly 20 years, Panama forward Blas Perez has appeared for more than a dozen different clubs in Latin and North America. This included a spell in MLS, where he featured for FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps. The 36-year-old can be currently found playing his club football in Bolivia with Blooming.
What they said
"The result does not reflect what our commitment was [this evening]. We will continue to fight until there are possibilities.” Speaking after Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat in Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago coach Dennis Lawrence believes his side deserved a draw in San Jose.
Up Next (Round Five, Matchday 7)
Trinidad and Tobago-Honduras