Roman Torres, center, Roberto Chen, left and Gabriel Torres celebrate… (Nicholas Kamm / Getty Images )
For the second time in 11 years, Mexico won’t play in the Gold Cup final.
Panama made sure of that Wednesday, turning a first-half goal from Blas Perez, a second-half score from Roman Torres and some brilliant goalkeeping from Jaime Penedo into a 2-1 win over Mexico in front of 81,410 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Panama, which beat Mexico, 2-1, in the Gold Cup opener, will play the U.S. in Sunday’s final in Chicago. The U.S. advanced with a 3-1 victory over Honduras in Wednesday’s first semifinal game.
Panama got the deciding goal in the 61st minute on a brilliant header from Torres, who dashed in from the edge of the penalty area to head in a long corner kick from Gabriel Torres.
Perez, who plays for FC Dallas, got the scoring started in his homecoming in the 13th minute. The goal came at the end of an impressive give and go that in which Perez scooted the ball to Alberto Quintero, who dribbled toward the center of the penalty area before sending it back to Perez, whose blast from the right edge of the six-yard box slammed into the net at the far side.
Mexico got that one back 13 minutes later when Marco Fabian left-footed a pass across the six-yard box for Luis Montes, whose diving header tied the score.
But Mexico could get no more despite a frantic rally in the closing minutes that produced several good scoring chances. The best came after a loose ball eluded Panama’s Robert Chen, allowing Mexico’s Isaac Brizuela to latch onto it. But Brizuela, who had come on moments earlier, sent up a soft volley that a charging Penedo appeared to get a finger on, sending it on to the top of the net for one of several spectacular saves he made in the second half.
Then in the 88th minute, a diving header by Javier Orozco missed an open net at the near post.
Panama advanced to its first Gold Cup final since 2005, when it lost to the U.S. on penalty kicks.
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