Controversial late penalty propels Mexico into Gold Cup semifinals

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Controversial late penalty propels Mexico into Gold Cup semifinals
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Dogged in its effort and crisp in its play, Mexico was unfortunate not to score against Costa Rica during the run of play.

That said, El Tri is very fortunate to have won the way it did.

Mexico drew a controversial penalty in stoppage of extra time, and Andres Guardado buried the spot kick to give Mexico a 1-0 win in the Gold Cup quarterfinals at MetLife Stadium.

With the game seemingly destined for a shootout, Mexico’s Miguel Layun played one last ball into the box. Oribe Peralta ran underneath it with Costa Rica’s Roy Miller feigning a challenge from behind, but the ball rolled harmlessly wide of the net.

Or so Costa Rica thought:

Despite protests, Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez stuck to his call and Guardado, to his credit, made no mistake by firing the penalty kick into the left side of the net:

What compounded the agony for Costa Rica is that Peralta was lucky to escape a red card a few minutes earlier. He took down Elias Aguilar with a scissors-style tackle that commonly leads to a sending off, but Peralta only received a yellow.

Mexico arguably deserved the result after a strong showing in the second half and most of extra time. The insertion of Jesus Corona in the 86th minute proved particularly effective, with his whirlwind feet and tricky moves wreaking havoc on the wings.

But Mexico’s hot-and-cold scoring at the Gold Cup continued, following up a four-goal performance against Trinidad and Tobago by struggling with finishing against Costa Rica. Giancarlo Gonzalez shepherded the back line with commitment and expert positioning to help keep a clean sheet.

The early exit is no doubt a disappointment for the Costa Ricans, regardless of how it happened. They won a tough group at the 2014 World Cup that featured Italy, Uruguay and England, then made it to the quarterfinals before falling. Now, they leave the United States having failed to win in four matches, with three draws and Sunday’s loss.

Mexico will face Panama, which eliminated Trinidad and Tobago in a thrilling shootout earlier in the day, in the semifinals on Wednesday in Atlanta. Panama eliminated El Tri from the last Gold Cup in the semifinals, so the Mexicans will be out for revenge.

Only this time, they hope to not leave it so late.