CONCACAF Gold Cup Wrap: Panama storm into semis
Panama have powered into the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 6-1 demolition of Cuba, while Mexico also reached the final four.
Mexico, who have won the past two Gold Cups, had to wait until the final 10 minutes to score the decisive goal in their 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago but the reigning champions' next opponents, Panama, had a much easier time of it on Saturday.
Despite going behind in the 21st minute following a fine strike from Cuban forward Jose Ciprian Alfonso, Panama cruised to victory at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, edging ahead 2-1 at half-time before scoring four times in the final 22 minutes to wrap up a comfortable win.
The victory ensured Panama qualified for the Gold Cup semi-finals for the second tournament in a row and their head coach Julio Dely Valdes had American-based striker Blas Perez to thank for the triumph after the 32-year-old scored twice and set up a third goal.
Cuba only held onto their lead for four minutes in Atlanta before Panama equalised from the penalty spot.
A Cuban defender was judged to have blocked a shot with his hand in the penalty area and Gabriel Torres stepped up and dispatched the spot kick.
In the 37th minute, Panama went ahead after Perez headed the ball down to Torres, who thrashed his shot past Cuban goalkeeper Odel Molina.
Cuba's hopes of a comeback were dealt a blow 13 minutes after half-time when Ariel Martinez was sent off for lashing out with his foot at Perez and Panama increased the islanders' pain in the 68th minute thanks to a goal from Carlos Rodriguez.
Perez made it 4-1 with 12 minutes remaining when he converted a one-on-one opportunity past Molina, before Jairo Jimenez added Panama's fifth goal in the 85th minute with a shot that squeezed in at the near post.
Panama completed the rout three minutes later when Perez tapped home the rebound after Molina had palmed a powerful shot from Jimenez into the FC Dallas striker's path.
In the second game at the Georgia Dome, Mexico dominated Trinidad and Tobago with 61 percent possession and 17 shots to 10, but the two-time reigning champions did not break down their Caribbean opposition until the 84th minute.
Miguel Layun's cross from the right wing found Raul Jimenez at the near post and the 22-year-old striker threaded his first-time shot across Trinidad and Tobago's goalkeeper Jan-Michael Williams and into the bottom corner to give Mexico victory.
Mexico will take on Panama in their semi-final on Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.