US, Panama reach Gold Cup semi-finals

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Panama booked their CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final berth in dramatic style Sunday, beating El Salvador 5-3 on penalties after Luis Tejada equalized in the 90th minute. Panama lined up another match against their Group C rivals the United States, who had second-half goals from Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey in a 2-0 victory over Jamaica in the quarter-finals of the regional championship for North and Central America and the Caribbean.
In the second match of the day’s double-header at RFK Stadium, Tejada’s 90th minute strike answered the penalty converted by Rodolfo Zelaya in the 78th for El Salvador. Tejada converted in the penalty shoot-out, making the clinching shot after Nelson Barahona, Luis Renteria, Anibal Godoy and Amilcar Henriquez converted. Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo stopped the first penalty he faced in the decider, from El Salvador’s Dennis Alas. “If things don’t go your way in terms of soccer, you have to look for other ways to reach your goals,” Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said. “We have gotten a result in a way we’re not used to.
“I think Panama never stopped fighting, and that’s how we reached the goal, which is the most important thing going forward.” Both coaches were unhappy with some of the referee’s calls. Tejada’s goal in the last minute of regular time first appeared to have been saved by El Salvador keeper Miguel Montes, but he was in the net and it was determined the ball crossed the goal line. After a delay in posting the goal on the scoreboard, it was briefly taken down then put up again. “It’s an elimination that has been conditioned by human error made by the referees, which is OK because they are human and they can make mistakes,” El Salvador coach Ruben Israel said.
Both Panama and El Salvador played extra time with just 10 men after Panama’s Blas Perez and El Salvador’s Luis Anaya were sent off after a scuffle at the end of regular time.
Panama will play the United States on Wednesday in Houston in a re-match of Panama’s 2-1 Group C victory.
The USA advanced thanks to Jones’ goal in the 49th minute and Dempsey’s 80th-minute strike.
German-born midfielder Jones, making his ninth appearance for the USA, fired a shot from outside the area that was deflected by Jamaican defender Jermaine Taylor’s outstretched leg past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
The United States gained a man advantage after Taylor was sent off in the 67th minute for a foul on Jones.
The US made the most of the advantage with Dempsey’s goal. A cross from Juan Agudelo found Dempsey alone on the left side of the goal. Ricketts came out to contest, and Dempsey eluded him and slotted the ball home.
“We just played good football,” Dempsey said. “We were patient. We were confident. We moved the ball around well.”
Agudelo had come on in the 12th minute for Jozy Altidore, who departed with a strained left hamstring.
Jamaica had reached the quarter-finals as the winners of Group B with victories over Grenada and Guatemala and Honduras.
But they had never beaten the United States and had never made it beyond the Gold Cup quarter-finals, trends they couldn’t reverse on Sunday.
“I thought we were in the game until we gave up the first goal,” Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said. “Even one man down, I think we were still in the game, still getting chances.”
In Wednesday’s other semi-final, Mexico will face Honduras.
Defending champions Mexico advanced with a 2-1 victory over Guatemala on Saturday, when Honduras defeated Costa Rica 4-2 on penalties after the two teams were level 1-1 after extra time at New Meadowlands Stadium.
The Gold Cup champions earn a berth in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.