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Gold Cup 2011: Honduras Wins over Costa Rica to Advance

Cesar Diaz@@gritwriterCorrespondent IIJune 19, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 18:  Jerry Bengtson #9 of Honduras is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the clinching penalty kick against Costa Rica during the 2011 Gold Cup Quarterfinals on June 18, 2011 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

In a match similar to a pitcher's duel in baseball, Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares and Costa Rica's goalkeeper Keylor Navas gave us a goalkeepers classic.

As a result Honduras eliminated Costa Rica from the Gold Cup when "Los Catrachos" won 4-2 in penalty kicks.

Despite allowing a goal in the second half, both goalkeepers played well enough to give their teams the opportunity to win. After 90 minutes of soccer, the score ended 1-1. Both valiantly played well for an additional 30 minutes (two 15-minutes halves), but the score remained 1-1.

It was in the penalty kicks where Honduras was finally able to secure a win. Their kickers converted all four attempts, opposed to Costa Rica's two successful conversions.

As a result, Honduras advanced to the semifinals. They will now face Mexico, who had rallied to win 2-1 over Guatemala at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Wednesday, June 22nd.

Honduras' victory marked the third time that they have won over Costa Rica at the Gold Cup. Los Catrachos previously won in the 1991 semifinals and the 2005 quarterfinals.

However, Honduras was very fortunate that they were able to advance on Saturday.

They clearly dominated the first half and moved the ball well, appearing to be the aggressor. Despite a 12-4 shots on goal advantage, however, Los Catrachos were unable to capitalize on their opportunities to produce a goal.

In the second half, Jerry Bengston gave Honduras a 1-0 lead in the 49th minute. He accepted a pass from teammate Javier Portillo, who seconds earlier forced Costa Rica's GK Navas to cover him. His shot ricocheted off Navas leg to Bengston, who easily hammered the ball in.

Minutes later, Costa Rica brilliantly tied the game off a corner kick. Los Ticos Dennis Marshall headed in the equalizer in the 56th minute of the game.

Building off their goal, Costa Rica gained momentum.

In the 75th minute, Alvaro Saborio had the opportunity to give Los Ticos a 2-1 advantage when his team was awarded a penalty kick. Despite the stalling tactics of Honduras' GK & Captain Noel Valladares (who was given a yellow card), Saborio appeared calm and ready to give his teammates the lead.

He took his shot and it was successfully blocked by Valladares, who dove to his right to block the penalty kick.

"The PK save was able to help us mentally and emotionally, and we were able to finish off the match with a win," said Valladares, who accepted the caution because he needed to "distract the kicker."

Following the penalty kick, neither team was able to score again in regulation or extra time.

Ironically, it was in the penalty area where Honduras' Bengston and Costa Rica's Saborio symbolized the "Hero and the Goat." With an opportunity to redeem himself and keep Los Ticos in the game, Saborio missed his second penalty kick of the match. 

With Honduras' destiny literally in his leg, Bengston—who had given his teammates a 1-0 lead in the second half—hammered home his penalty kick for the win.

As teammates mobbed Bengston, it was assured that they will now face Mexico—where a win would guarantee them in the Gold Cup 2011 Final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

"Of the five games I've coached this team, this has been the most complete performance," Honduran coach Luis Fernando Suarez said. "It's been a constant growth. In the beginning it was difficult to manage the ball and keep the ball. But I think afterward the team was able to achieve a rhythm."

With little time to make adjustments, it'll be interesting if Honduras will be able to capitalize on their opportunities against a favored-Mexican team.

Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for LatinoSports.com. He also writes for 5 Points Press & USSoccerPlayers.com ; your source for American Soccer news brought to you by members of the U.S. National Team. Easily accessible, you may reach Cesar at cesar@latinosports.com and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.

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