SOCCER: In the final of the Under-20 CONCACAF Championship Mexico would prevail in penalties over Panama.
By Jorge Belon, Managing Editor
The Mexicans capture their 13th Under-20 CONCACAF Championships on Saturday night by defeating Panama 4-2 in penalties at Montego Bay Sports Complex in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
“First off I am very happy that we won,” Mexican starting midfielder Erick Gutiérrez told CONCACAF. “It was something beautiful. At first it was difficult but we never gave up…now we need to celebrate the title.”
The heavy favorites El Tri faced a new upcoming Central American nation, Panama on Saturday. Both teams flexed their muscles in the group stages and neither team backed away in the final.
Los Canaleros came at the Mexicans by taking 10 shots in the match. The CONCACAF powerhouse did have 11 shots of their own. No team had taken that many shots on the El Tri defense in the tournament-until Panama.
However, neither team scored until the second half. Mexico’s forward Guillermo Martínez positioned himself perfectly, as the ball floated to the right hand corner of the net. He timed his run well and headed the ball to take the 1-0 lead at the 50th minute.
Now after going ahead in a match Mexico would typically run over the team. However, Panama continued to fight back and put pressure on El Tri back line.
They finally were rewarded when a Mexican defender violently swung his leg in the penalty box and hit the Panamanian forward who was ready to shoot.
In result, the referee blew his whistle and defender Fidel Escobar stepped up and buried the ball to tie it at 1-1 at the 73rd minute.
The game went into overtime. By then both teams were fatigued and their attacks were showing it.
Instead of the crisp and accurate passes that were displayed in regulation time, they were now either long or short. Players misfired their shots or loss balance when they fired at goal. When the penalties came around it was no surprise.
Both teams were given five penalties to take. If there was no winner- the game would go to sudden death.
Mexico and Panama first two kickers made their penalties. The tide turned when Panama forward, Edson Samms, had his penalty blocked by the Mexican goalie.
Mexico now had the advantage to take the 3-2 lead. Erick Aguirre stepped up and converted the penalty.
Now Carlos Small was up for Panama. He needed to score to give his team a chance of turning it around. But instead El Tri goalie José González made his second consecutive save to put Mexico in the driver seat and Panama on the brink of losing the final.
José Robles finished the game and crowned Mexico as champion for the third year in a row by scoring the penalty to make it 4-2.
“We knew this match was going to be hard,” Gutiérrez told CONCACAF. “We always practice penalties and it showed. This is my first championship and I just want to celebrate it with my teammates.”
Highlights provided by CONCACAF, http://youtu.be/KcRNfa6HHlc.