US tops group, Cuba into Gold Cup quarters
EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut (AP) -The United States finished top of Group C in the CONCACAF Gold Cup by beating Costa Rica on Tuesday while Cuba snuck into the quarterfinals by the slimmest of margins.
The U.S. defeated Costa Rica 1-0, with Brek Shea scoring his first international goal in the 82nd minute.
The Americans will face El Salvador in the quarterfinals and Costa Rica - which was Group C runner-up - will take on Honduras.
Cuba, needing to beat Belize by a four-goal margin to move ahead of Martinique in the overall standings and claim the last quarterfinal berth, completed a 4-0 win with a goal in the last seconds of stoppage time.
Ariel Martinez netted a hat trick for Cuba, which will face Panama in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The other last-eight match pits Mexico against Trinidad & Tobago.
The U.S. goal came seconds after its goalkeeper Sean Johnson made a brilliant save off a corner. Joe Corona cleared the ball, setting up the winning sequence. Landon Donovan, working his way back into a starring role on the national team after a self-imposed hiatus, took the ball on the right side. He quickly spotted Shea, who came on just five minutes earlier, streaking down the middle.
Donovan's pass hit Shea in stride, and the Stoke City player sent a left-footed shot from 15 yards off goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton for the winner, the Americans' eighth straight, a team record.
"It's good,'' Shea said, downplaying his massive contribution after struggling earlier in the tournament. "First U.S. goal, only goal of the game, it wins the group. Really good.''
Cuba had lost its previous two games and needed a four-goal margin against Belize to get ahead of Martinique on goal difference.
Martinez scored the first three goals for the Cubans, which finally won its first ever Gold Cup game at the 14th attempt.
"For me, it was like winning the World Cup,'' Martinez said. "It is a great achievement for us and it made me very happy.''
Cuba pressed for the fourth goal that would secure a quarterfinal berth, coming close several times before Jeniel Molina got on the end of a Liban Perez header in the dying seconds and poked home a close-range shot to make it 4-0, sparking wild celebrations.