By JUSTIN FERGUSON
They may have started Monday night’s Group B finale in Houston as the bottom two teams, but shutout wins pushed Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador into the knockout stage of this year’s Gold Cup.
Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones notched a goal and an assist to give Trinidad & Tobago a 2-0 win over first-place Honduras, who had already qualified for the quarterfinals. The two-goal victory clinched the second-place slot from Group B.
The Soca Warriors will be joined in the next round by El Salvador, who defeated Haiti 1-0 in controversial fashion. Rodolfo Zelaya was the hero for El Salvador, scoring his third goal in the tournament in the 76th minute.
With just one point from its first two matches, Trinidad & Tobago needed all three points to have a chance at surviving in the competition. After some back-and-forth action in the first half, the match swung in the Soca Warriors’ favor when Honduras’s Jose Velasquez was shown the red card for an ugly challenge from behind.
Trinidad & Tobago broke the deadlock shortly after halftime on another bad tackle from Honduras. This time, Orlin Peralta was called for a foul in the box, and Jones converted the 47th-minute penalty.
Nineteen minutes later, the Soca Warriors sealed their spot in the final eight and moved into second place. Jones finished a nice sequence with a perfect pass to Kevin Molino, who found the back of the net.
The win gave Trinidad & Tobago its first Gold Cup quarterfinal berth since 2000 and eliminated Haiti, who lost earlier in the evening on a controversial call.
Needing just a point to advance in the competition, underdogs Haiti held their own against a controlling El Salvador side that needed a victory to move on. Haiti got a couple of breaks in the first half as the post denied Zelaya twice, which included an 18th-minute miss on an empty-net situation.
After a 71st-minute goal was ruled offside, El Salvador took the lead five minutes later in controversial fashion. Jean Marc Alexandre was whistled for grabbing Victor Turcios’s jersey in the box, but replays showed Turcios was the one doing the jersey tugging.
Zelaya’s initial penalty try was saved by Frandy Montrevil, but his rebound broke the deadlock. Haiti was unable to equalize late, sealing its Gold Cup fate.
El Salvador clinched its spot in the quarterfinals as the top third-place team in the tournament. Group A’s Martinique is currently in line to be the second third-place team to qualify as Cuba or Belize would have to win by at least four goals on Tuesday night to move on.
What did you think of these matches? Impressed with Trinidad & Tobago’s performance against first-place Honduras? Think the loss will affect Honduras in the quarterfinals? Disappointed to see Haiti eliminated on a controversial call?
Share your thoughts below.