Panama defender Michael Murillo celebrates scoring his team’s second goal in their 2-1 win over Martinique in the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Friday (Leonardo MUNOZ)
Panama moved into the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 2-1 win over Martinique on Friday after Costa Rica and El Salvador produced a frantic but goalless draw.
The Canalmen have six points from their opening two games in Group C with Martinique on three points and El Salvador and Costa Rica on a point each with a game remaining for all teams.
Martinique, surprisingly, made eight changes from the team which had beaten El Salvador in their opening game and faced relentless pressure from Panama from the outset.
A shot from Panama striker Jose Fajardo and an Eric Davis header brought Martinique keeper Theo De Percin into action early in the encounter at Red Bull Arena.
It was a busy night for De Percin but the breakthrough finally came in the 57th minute when Panama’s classy midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla found Davis on the left, and the latter’s pinpoint cross was met with a bullet header from Fajardo.
Michael Murillo then doubled the lead when he latched on to Alberto Quintero’s clever chip over the top and took his time before drilling the ball into the top corner.
Martinique pulled a goal back in stoppage time from Karl Fabien but the Caribbean team’s defeat means they will likely need a result against Costa Rica on Tuesday if they are to progress to the last eight for the second time in their history.
There was a packed and passionate crowd for the all-Central American clash which followed and the two teams responded with a performance packed with energy and high-tempo football, but no goals.
Joshua Perez’s long-range effort was tipped wide by Costa Rica keeper Kevin Chamorro, while at the other end veteran Celso Borges’s thunderbolt from outside the box brought a fine save out of Mario Gonzalez.
El Salvador’s Brayan Gil had the best chance of the game when the ball fell to him four yards out, but he blasted his snap shot against the bar.
Costa Rica threw centre-half Kendall Waston into attack and he had the ball in the net with a delicate flick but the effort was ruled out for offside.
Waston then had an opportunity to clinch a stoppage-time winner when he was found in space by a smart back-heel from Anthony Contreras, but the defender curled his shot wide.
There was fury at the end of the game when the referee blew for time as El Salvador rushed to take a corner and their livid assistant coach Mauricio Cienfuegos was shown a red card for his protests.
Saturday’s games in Group D see Cuba face Guadeloupe while Guatemala take on Canada.