BALTIMORE (AP) — Andy Najar interrupted a defensive struggle with a goal in the 49th minute, and Honduras squeezed past Costa Rica 1-0 on Sunday night to earn a matchup against the United States in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
After Najar scored on a header off a fine crossing pass from Alexander Lopez, Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober made the advantage stand up.
Honduras and the U.S. will vie for a berth in the Gold Cup finals on Wednesday night in Arlington, Texas. The U.S. advanced with a 5-1 win over El Salvador in the opener of a doubleheader before a sellout crowd 70,540 at the home of the Baltimore Ravens.
“They have complete respect,” Honduras coach Luis Suarez said through a translator. “The way they played in the beginning to now, it’s been a great revolution.”
Following Najar’s goal, Costa Rica had two decent chances to pull even. Escober blocked a solid shot by Alvaro Saborio in the 61st minute, and a short time later Michael Barrantes was stymied by Escober on a straight-on shot from around 20 yards.
The tight affair was not surprising. Defensive-oriented Costa Rica scored one goal or fewer in five of its previous six Gold Cup games, and permitted no more than one goal in eight of the previous nine.
Honduras blunted its attack after taking the lead and went on the defensive.
“After the goal, I think the team thought about defending,” Suarez said. “We had to defend because they were beating us on the back line.”
This was the fourth time the teams have played in the knockout stage of the Gold Cup. Honduras has won each time.
“We didn’t win, but I can’t call this a failure,” coach Jorge Pinto said through a translator. “We might have to consider some variations. We are lacking on the attack, and I am going to do my best to find a solution.”
A scoreless first half was marked by the yellow card received by Osman Chavez of Honduras, who slammed into goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton. After the collision, Pemberton grabbed his knee and remained on the ground for several minutes before returning to his position.
Costa Rica took only four shots on goal during the whole game, none before halftime. Honduras took only one shot on goal during the first 45 minutes.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)