- February, 19 2007 -
Sunday, February 18, 2007 – Cuscatlán Stadium, El Salvador: A late strike from Claudio Albizuriz was enough for Guatemala to beat hosts El Salvador and take third place in the Copa de Naciones Digicel 2007. Hernan Dario Gomez’s side once again defended solidly, Guatemala keeping their 4th clean sheet of the competition, and just about deserved their win over an El Salvador who have failed to score in their last three games in the tournament.
The opening 45 minutes were an even affair with little in the way of goalmouth action, the best opportunity falling to Guatemala on 11 minutes. Manuel Salazar’s under hit back pass left Cesar Alegria with only Gonzalez in the El Salvador goal to beat. But the big Guatemalan striker has had a disappointing tournament and once again he failed to find the target, firing well wide.
After a rather dull first half, the second period saw a number of chances for both sides. Gonzalez in the El Salvador goal made the first real save of the contest on 48 minutes, bravely diving at the feet of Villatoro to claim the ball after the striker had been well played in by Alegria. Quintanilla came close for the hosts on 54 minutes from a corner, cleared away at the near post, and again with a free-kick on 56 that deflected off the wall before the best chance of the game fell to Guatemala. Once again it was Alegria, clean through on goal after Amaya had misjudged a long through ball, but this time the misfiring striker shot straight at Gonzalez it what proved to be his last act of the Copa Digicel, Gomez substituting the unfortunate forward seconds later.
El Salvador’s best chance came on 67 minutes, a flowing move resulting in Martinez feeding substitute Salamanca who fired just wide. Ten minutes later the hosts were convinced they had a penalty when Galdamez’s corner seemed to strike Cabrera on the hand. Referee Quezada waved play-on, much to the displeasure of the home side, in particular Amaya who’s vocal protests earned him a yellow card.
The home fans were to feel even more hard done by 5 minutes later when Guatemala grabbed the lead. Villatoro’s dangerous low cross was well turned behind by Amaya but from the corner the Champines found the net, the first goal after 172 minutes of play between these sides in the Copa de Naciones Digicel 2007. The danger appeared to have passed when Garcia’s corner has headed clear but the ball fell to Albizuriz who found the corner of the net with a fine low drive from the edge of the penalty area
El Salvador pressed in search for an equalizer but could not breach the Guatemala defence expertly marshaled by the impressive Cabrera. With time running out, frustration got the better of the hosts and Amaya deservedly saw red for an appallingly late tackle on Garcia.
Guatemala can now look forward to a Central American record 7th consecutive CONCACAF Gold Cup safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely to concede many goals but will need to improve in attack. El Salvador, after an encouraging run in the Copa Digicel that capture the excitement of the nation, face a similar dilemma as they prepare their 5th Gold Cup and will need to improve considerably in front of goal.
Guatemala: Luis Molina, Leonel Noriega, Henry Medina, Gustavo Cabrera, Claudio Albizuriz, Edwin Villatoro, , Marvín Ávila (Jose Contreras), Nestor Martinez, Fredy Thompson, Héctor de Mata (Fredy Garcia), Cesar Alegria (Florencio Martinez)
El Salvador: Jose Gonzalez. Manuel Salazar (Leonel Guevera), Luis Amaya, Víctor Velásquez (C), Víctor Merino (Jose Galdamez), Alex Erazo (Juan Diaz), Jose Salamanca, Denis Alas, Alfredo Pacheco, Eliseo Quintanilla, Jose Martinez,