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Mexico, Panama reach Gold Cup semis

MIAMI (AFP) – Mexico and Panama booked their places in the last four of the CONCACAF Gold Cup with victories yesterday in their quarter-final ties against Costa Rica and Qatar.

Ismael Díaz blasted a hat trick in the space of nine second-half minutes as Panama marched on with a 4-0 win over Qatar.

Record eight-time Gold Cup champions Mexico reached the last four of the tournament for the ninth straight edition thanks to a 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

Ajax right-back Jorge Sanchez went close to a first-half opener for Mexico, driving into the box and firing a low show at the near post that was well saved by Ticos keeper Kevin Chamorro.

Mexico, beaten by the USA in the final two years ago, dominated for long stretches but were given a reminder of Costa Rica’s threat when Anthony Contreras found space for a shot but his effort lacked power and was comfortably dealt with by veteran keeper Guillermo Ochoa.

It threatened to be a frustrating night for Jaime Lozano’s side but they finally broke through in the 52nd minute when Kendall Waston barged Henry Martin to the ground and Orbelin Pineda side-footed home the spot kick.

Mexico’s midfielder Orbelin Pineda does a flip as he celebrates scoring his team’s first goal. PHOTO: AFP

Costa Rica struggled to penetrate the Mexican defense and had to resort to long-range attacks, the best of which saw an Aaron Suarez effort dip just over the bar.

At the other end, Luis Chavez went close to a second with a free-kick that flew narrowly over the bar and then Santiago Gimenez flashed a shot just wide.

The victory was wrapped up for Mexico with three minutes of regulation time remaining – Roberto Alvarado burst down the left and pulled the ball back, just behind Erick Sanchez, who scuffed the ball home.

Guest team Qatar had to shuffle their pack in Dallas with six players suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards and Panama proved to be too strong for the Asian champions.

The Canalmen took the lead in the 19th when Eric Davis whipped in a great cross from the left and Edgar Barcenas buried a header into the far corner.

The goal rush for Diaz started in the 56th minute when he was fed a perfect through ball by the impressive Adalberto Carrasquilla, burst in from the left and cleverly slotted into the near post.

Diaz made it 3-0 with a poacher’s finish after Carrasquilla’s drive blocked and after a brief scramble the ball fell to the Panama striker, who picked his spot for his second.

The hat trick was completed when, after smart exchange with Jose Fajardo, Diaz burst away from the Qatari defenders and fired home with confidence.