photo by Jason Getz/USA Today Sports
By FRANCO PANIZO
Mexico is off to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, but not without another victory mired in controversy.
Three days after topping Costa Rica in extra time via a dubious penalty kick that drew the ire of fans and pundits everywhere, Mexico defeated 10-man Panama, 2-1, after 120 minutes in a scandalous and controversial semifinals match on Wednesday night.
Like in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Ticos, Andres Guardado came through for El Tri from the spot. He pulled Mexico level 10 minutes into second-half stoppage time in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, which were given due to Panama’s protests and stoppage of play after the penalty was awarded by American referee Mark Geiger.
Guardado also netted on another attempt from 12 yards out a minute into stoppage time of the added first half, pushing the Mexicans to their first Gold Cup final since 2011. They will meet Jamaica on Sunday in the championship game.
The controversial calls started early in this one. Carlos Vela was aggressively jostling for position with Anibal Godoy on a set piece in the third minute before tempers flared and Vela elbowed the Panamanian in the stomach. Geiger saw the infraction, and issued Vela a yellow card.
Geiger was not so lenient in the 25th minute. Jumping for an aerial ball, Panama attacker Luis Tejada made contact with Francisco ‘Maza’ Rodriguez’s face with an open hand. Geiger immediately issued a red card to Tejada, who was livid with the call and refused to leave the field for a few minutes before doing so.
While the Panamanians had to regroup and be more compact defensively, they took the lead through a 57th-minute header at the near post from Roman Torres. Torres got on the end of a corner kick from Eric Davis, and nodded a bouncing effort past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
As Panama celebrated the goal, debris thrown from the crowd, including a liquid of some sort, hit them.
El Tri threw numbers forward in search of an equalizer and was on the brink of elimination, but won its first controversial penalty kick in the 89th minute.
Geiger called a handball and pointed to the spot after Torres fell backwards on the ball while trying to fight off Mexican substitute Carlos Esquivel. Chaos ensued, as Panama’s furious players walked off the field momentarily while fans in the stands hurled more objects in the direction of the two teams’ benches.
Eventually, Panama opted to resume play and Guardado fired his penalty kick past Canaleros goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to force extra time.
Panama were undone by another shot from 12 yards out after Harold Cummings collided into Javier Orozco in the 103rd minute. Replays showed that Vela, who played Orozco in on goal on the play, was just offside before receiving the pass that started the sequence.
Guardado again came through in the clutch, beating Penedo for the second time to ensure Mexico reached Sunday’s championship game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Panamanians, many of which stormed the field after the final whistle to berate Geiger, will take on the U.S. Men’s National Team in the third-place match on Saturday after the Americans fell, 2-1, to Jamaica earlier on Wednesday. That game will be played at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.
What did you think about Mexico’s 2-1 win over Panama? Are you incensed about the way things played out? How big of a black eye is this match for CONCACAF?
Share your thoughts below.