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Honduras, USA in CONCACAF semis
PHILADELPHIA, Jul 19 (Agencies):
Published on 19 Jul. 2009 11:49 PM IST
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Walter Martinez converted a first-half penalty to lift Honduras to a 1-0 victory over Canada and a place in the Gold Cup semi-finals against the United States. The two-time defending champion United States 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 Canadian defender Paul Staltieri was called for an apparent infraction as Martinez attempted a bicycle kick. Replays appeared to show Martinez had hold of Stalteri’s jersey, 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 spot past diving Canadian goalkeeper Greg Sutton. Canada nearly equalized in the 56th, 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 came out of the game in the 72nd minute. “Coach has his family in Honduras as do all of us.” 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 United States in the 1991 final and in the 2005 semi-finals of the CONCACAF regional football championship tournament, will travel to Chicago to take on the US. Kenny Cooper converted a penalty kick in the 105th minute as the United States rallied for the victory over Panama. The USA started slowly against the Panamanians, looking sluggish in the early exchanges. And the visiting Central Americans, runners-up at the 2005 Gold Cup, took full advantage, going a goal to the good in the dying moments of the first half. Blas Perez capitalised on a clumsy bit of business in the US defence, poking home a deflected ball as the Americans were unable to clear the danger from a corner-kick. Blas Perez put Panama ahead in first-half injury time, but Kyle Beckerman equalized in the 48th. Cooper was kicked by Panama’s Roman Torres as they went for the ball, and the penalty was awarded by Mexican referee Benito Archundia. Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo correctly dived right, but Cooper’s low kick still 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. The US, four-time winners of the CONCACAF showpiece, will take on Honduras in the last four on Thursday at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Sunday’s quarter-finals, pitting Mexico against Haiti and Costa Rica against Guadeloupe, will send the final two teams to the tournament’s semi-final stage. In the remaining two quarter-finals, Guadeloupe faces Costa Rica and Mexico take on Haiti on Sunday in Dallas. The final is on July 26 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

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