Panama defeated Costa Rica 3-0 as visitors in San José in the first leg of the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals, almost securing a pass to the Copa América 2024.
Michael Murillo opened the scoring at the 4th minute with a masterful free-kick, José Fajardo scored the second at half an hour, and Cecilio Watermann notched the third and decisive goal at the hour mark of the game.
The match had barely started, and practically before the last spectator had sat down in the Ricardo Saprissa stadium in San José, Panama was already leading 1-0 with a beautiful free-kick goal from Murillo in the 4th minute into the top right corner.
It was a poor start for the debut of Argentine Gustavo Alfaro on the Tico bench, who took charge just a week after being introduced, insisting that his team play the ball out from the back.
Without ideas in midfield, at the 29th minute, Costa Rica hesitated in playing the ball out, and Díaz stole it in his own field and launched a deep pass to the running Fajardo.
The Panamanian striker from DC United of the U.S. MSL ran amidst tussles with his counterpart, reached the edge of the box, and drove the ball to the lower left post, far from the gloves of Kevin Chamorro and into the net.
Costa Rica came out after the break forced to try to close the gap. They stepped forward and approached the Canal area but without causing major problems.
Panama, on the other hand, waited in the back and used the counterattack as a deadly weapon. Thus, again in a run in the 60th minute, Adalberto Carrasquilla traveled about 20 meters and, in front of the passivity of the local defense, filtered a pass for Watermann to control and slot it low to the right in front of Chamorro’s advance.
Panama was far superior to Costa Rica, which remains the same weak team since the World Cup in Qatar in November 2022. A dismal night for the Ticos, who ended the match with the stadium half empty ten minutes before the end and under the rain.
Panama, however, already has half a ticket to the Concacaf Nations League semifinal, although they still have to host Costa Rica at home for the second leg of this knockout round next Monday.