Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
Playing less than 50 miles from where he spent his teenage years, Andy Najar looked right at home on Sunday evening.
The former D.C. United midfielder scored the lone goal for the Honduras National Team, as they defended a furious comeback in the final ten minutes from Costa Rica to win, 1-0, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The victory sent Honduras into the Gold Cup semifinals, where they’ll face the U.S. Men’s National Team on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas.
Physical play had it’s mark on the quarterfinal matchup, with 30 fouls total and five yellow cards shown by the referee. The circumstances made building an attack in the final third tough, though Costa Rica certainly had their chances to score.
Forward Alvaro Saborio missed a chance inside the first minute when he had time in the box but put his shot wide, and after this, his day only got worse. Honduras defender Osman Chavez and goalkeeper Donis Escober made a number terrific plays to keep Saborio and Los Ticos off the board.
After a difficult first half for both sides, it only took four minutes for Honduras to find the breakthrough. After a storming run and cross from Najar down the left wing went past everyone in the middle, Najar was this time the recipient of a cross, taking a beautiful ball from Alex Lopez and redirecting a header in for a goal.
The goal was Najar’s first in a Honduras uniform.
It didn’t take long for Costa Rica to respond. After defending another wave of Honduras attacks, Costa Rica created a number of chances through Michael Barrantes and Saborio, but neither could finish thanks to some incredible reflex saves from Escober.
The energy for Honduras never seemed to waiver, and despite Costa Rica sending long balls into the 18-yard box in the final moments of the match, Chavez, Bryan Beckeles, and their defensive partners denied Costa Rica from getting a clean opportunity to put on goal as the seconds ticked up in stoppage time.