Mon, Jul 20, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Honduras, US advance to Gold Cup semi-finals

AFP , PHILADELPHIA

Rolando Escobar of Panama, right, controls the ball in front of Heath Pearce of the US during their CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-final at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

Walter Martinez converted a first-half penalty to lift Honduras to a 1-0 victory over Canada on Saturday and a place in the Gold Cup semi-finals against the US.

Two-time defending champions the US advanced with a 2-1 win in extra-time over Panama in the second match of a quarter-final double-header.

Honduras got their break in the 36th minute, when Canada defender Paul Stalteri was called for an apparent infraction in the penalty area as Martinez attempted an overhead-kick.

Replays appeared to show Martinez had hold of Stalteri’s shirt, but referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador saw it the other way and a protesting Stalteri was booked.

Martinez took advantage, drilling his effort from the penalty spot past diving goalkeeper Greg Sutton.

Canada nearly equalized in the 56th minute, when Patrice Bernier crossed to an open Josh Simpson. Honduran keeper Donis Escobar made a diving save to preserve the lead.

The victory was celebrated by thousands of Honduras fans in the crowd, who waved the country’s flag and draped it over railings in several sections of the stadium.

It was a welcome cause for celebration for a country in turmoil. Thousands took to the streets in Honduras on Saturday demanding the return of ousted president Manuel Zelaya as the mediator of the high-stakes talks over his possible return, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, called for his reinstatement.

Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda said his team was “dedicated to offering peace and tranquility.”

“It’s difficult for all of us,” said Martinez, who applauded the fans as he was substituted in the 72nd minute.

“Coach has his family in Honduras, as do all of us,” he said.

Martinez said he wanted to take the opportunity to ask the government to “seek peace.”

The defeat ended Canada’s hopes of claiming the title for the first time since 2000.

Honduras, who fell to the US in the 1991 final and in the 2005 semi-finals of the CONCACAF soccer tournament, will travel to Chicago to take on the US.

Kenny Cooper converted a penalty in the 105th minute as the US rallied for the victory over Panama.

Blas Perez put Panama ahead in first-half injury-time, but Kyle Beckerman equalized in the 48th minute for the US.

Cooper was kicked by Panama’s Roman Torres as they went for the ball, the penalty awarded by Mexican referee Benito Archundia.

Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo correctly dived right, but Cooper’s low kick went in off the upright.

Perez had put Panama ahead when he beat Troy Perkins with a nimble right-footed blast.

Beckerman pulled one back when Davy Arnaud’s cross was sent back to him by Stuart Holden.

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