HOUSTON: Colombia reached the Concacaf Gold Cup semi-finals with a surprise 2-1 win over holders Mexico thanks to Abel Aguilar’s 74th-minute strike on Sunday.
Aguilar’s goal came 10 minutes after a resilient, yet often disorganised, Mexican team equalised in an absorbing match.
However, it was the way Deportivo Cali midfielder Aguilar scored that caused Mexico’s blushes.
Catching Moises Munoz well off his line, Aguilar sent a 35m chip over the back-pedalling goalkeeper who could only flail his arms at the ball as it soared over him.
Colombia will meet the Panama for a place in the final of the biennial tournament after the Central Americans overcame South Africa on penalties in a match played later on Sunday.
After controlling long stretches in the first half where they had two goals disallowed for offside, the Colombians were rewarded in the 58th minute with a Jaime Castrillon header.
A flat Mexican defence gave Jairo Patino time to float over a cross from the right to Castrillon who eluded Francisco Rodriguez to nod home from eight metres.
The four-time champions surged back and six minutes later, grabbed an equaliser as Gonzalo Pineda got a deflection off defender Jose De La Cuesta and made no mistake as he fired in low at the left post from the edge of the area.
The Colombians remained composed and continued to attack as the game remained wide-open but it was Mexico who failed to wrest control of the match and noticeably missed inspirational striker Jared Borgetti, who was suspended.
Mexico nearly found an equaliser five minutes from the end, but Omar Bravo’s effort from 25m was well saved by Farid Mondragon who dived to his right to parry.
The game was not overly physical but referee Rodolfo Sibrian of El Salvador showed eight yellow cards, including a second to Mexico midfielder Alberto Medina who was sent off in stoppage time.
Panama advanced to Thursday’s semi-final with a 5-3 shootout victory over an inexperienced South Africa after the sides had ground out a 1-1 draw in normal time and the extra 30 minutes had failed to produce a goal.
Jorge Dely Valdes put the Central Americans ahead in the 48th minute before Lungisani Ndlela equalised 20 minutes later for South Africa, who dominated the remainder of the match but were unable to add to their tally.
In the shootout, the first five men converted their spot kicks before Panama keeper Jaime Penedo dived to his right to turn away Ricardo Katza’s effort.
Three penalties later, Gabriel Gomes slotted home from the spot to send Panama into the last four.
On Saturday, the United States reached the semi-finals after beating Jamaica 3-1 while Honduras knocked out Costa Rica 3-2.
The US face Honduras on Thursday at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the venue for both semi-finals and the final on July 24. – Reuters