It took longer than they wanted it to, but Panama finally punched their ticket to the Gold Cup quarterfinals with a 1-0 win over Martinique in Seattle on Thursday night in the Group A opener.
Striker Gabriel Torres coolly converted a penalty kick in the 85th minute, one minute after sub Jairo Jiménez had been brought down in the area. It gave a sluggish Panama side — who were lucky not to concede a penalty of their own in the first half — the decisive goal against stubborn 10-men Martinique side that was equally rugged and devoid of ideas in attack.
The win gives Panama six points from two games, guaranteeing their entry into the knock-out round. Martinique are still in the hunt with three points from their two outings.
Portland Timbers striker Frédéric Piquionne got the start and went 79 minutes for Les Martinino, while FC Dallas veteran forward Blas Pérez came on for the last 25 minutes for Los Canaleros.
Panama will look to secure the top spot in the Group on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver when they face Canada at 1:30 p.m. MT. A win or draw will guarantee Panama first place in Group A, leaving Mexico (3 points) and Martinique (3 points) to fight for second place in the second match at the Denver Broncos' stadium (4:00 p.m. MT kick off). Tickets for the doubleheader can be purchased by CLICKING HERE or at the stadium box office.