Jamaica top Gold Cup group, Guatemala advance
Harrison, New Jersey: Jamaica finished the first round of the Gold Cup on top of Group B after a 1-0 victory over Honduras on Monday, with both teams advancing to the quarter-finals along with Guatemala.
Guatemala booked their berth with a 4-0 victory over Grenada, which was enough to put them through as one of the best two third-placed teams in group play.
Ryan Johnson got the goal for Jamaica -- with some help from Honduran keeper Noel Valladares.
Johnson`s powerful shot hit the crossbar and then Valladares` back before landing in the net.
"It`s one of the strangest goals, but it`s a goal," said Johnson, who plays for the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer. "The best thing was getting the clean sheet. We haven`t been scored on so far and I`m really happy about that."
"I dove for the ball and I could not get it," Valladares said. "It hit me in the back and went in."
Johnson had a chance to double the score from the penalty spot in the 71st, but Valladares saved his attempt.
The victory gave Jamaica the maximum nine points from their three group matches.
In the quarter-finals of the regional championship for North and Central America and the Caribbean they`ll face the second-place team from Group C, which will be decided when the group stage concludes on Tuesday.
Honduras finished second in Group B -- ahead of Guatemala on goal difference -- and will face Costa Rica, runners-up to Mexico in Group A.
Guatemala needed to win by three goals to be assured of advancing.
In the end they had one to spare after goals from Jose Del Aguila, Marco Pappa, Carlos Ruiz and Carlos Gallardo.
"More than anything, this was a psychological and mental game," Guatemala manager Ever Hugo Almeida said. "We had to score a specific number of goals. We needed three goals, but we had to take it goal by goal. We were able to manage the game and get the result we wanted."
Del Aguila opened the scoring in the 15th with a shot that bounced off the inside of the right post and past keeper Shemel Louison.
Pappa doubled the lead in the 21st minute with a hard-struck shot that Louison couldn`t deflect.
In the 53rd minute, Ruiz volleyed in a rebound of Jairo Arreola`s attempt off the crossbar and Gallardo completed the scoring five minutes later.
Guatemala finished group play with four points and a goal difference of plus-two, enough to edge El Salvador as one of the top two third-placed teams.
El Salvador, third in Group A, could yet advance, depending on the outcome of Tuesday`s contests in Group C, when Panama take on Canada and the United States play Guadeloupe.