By DAN KARELL
It was a day for the ages, as the two underdogs snatched victory from the favorites in deserved fashion on the opening day of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The day at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena began with 37-year-old Fabrice Reuperne scoring a thunderbolt in the third minute of second-half stoppage-time to defeat Canada, 1-0, and the evening finished with Panama’s Gabriel Torres scoring twice to defeat tournament favorites Mexico, 2-1.
Missing their regulars after a long string of World Cup qualification and Confederations Cup matches, Mexico National Team head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre selected a domestically based side that ended up playing as uninspiring in the Southern California heat as the first team has done in Azteca Stadium in 2013.
Panama opened the scoring in the seventh minute, with Torres converting a penalty kick earned by teammate Alberto Quintero, who was taken down by Mexico’s Raul Jimenez.
Panama had never beaten ‘El Tri’ before, but the Canaleros took the game to Mexico from the start. Both Cecilio Waterman and Torres nearly added to the Panamanian lead when shots hit the post and went out of play.
Mexico’s Marco Fabian was the quickest to react, ranging to a long ball forward, using his chest to control, and all in one motion, finishing past Panama’s goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to level the scoreline in the 45th minute.
As the second half began, it was as though Mexico hadn’t scored the equalizer, as Torres once again pounced on an opportunity, flicking a ball neatly past Mexico goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco in the 47th minute to return the lead to Panama. El Tri continued to pump balls forward, but thanks to some last-ditch defending and some time-wasting tactics by Panama, they held on for the key win.
In the early match at the Rose Bowl, a young and inexperienced Canada side struggled against a Martinique side that is filled with amateurs from the starting lineup through the reserves, eventually falling, 1-0. Portland Timbers forward Fredric Piquionne started and lead the line against Canada, creating a number of chances that were well saved by the goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
Canada were afforded opportunities from set pieces, as forward Marcus Haber had a header saved in the 10th minute by Martinique goalkeeper Kevin Olimpa and defender David Edgar sent a hopeful header towards the back post, glancing the crossbar before going out of play.
Finally, as it looked like the teams would settle for a scoreless draw, Reuperne stepped up for Martinique, slamming a volley past Borjan for a goal in the 93rd minute, that came from a poorly cleared corner kick. It’s only the second time that Martinique has won a match in the Gold Cup, the first coming in 2002 against Trinidad and Tobago.
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