Two goals late in the match turned a respectable win over Costa Rica, the current CONCACAF World Cup qualifying leaders, into a rout for Honduras. Striking tandem Carlo Costly and Carlos Pavon each notched, and Costly added another, mere seconds after Melvin Valladares had put the game out of reach.
With the win, Honduras moves up to tied for second place with the United States on 10 points, bumping Mexico down to fourth again. Costa Rica still leads the group with 12 points. With four teams within three points, the final stretch of 2010 World Cup qualifying games promise plenty of drama.
Host Honduras announced its intention early. Carlo Costly raced onto a ball in the box in the third minute and went down under a challenge. The athletic Birmingham City striker appealed for a penalty, but instead a free kick was given the other way as Costly had handled the ball when controlling it.
Minutes later, Costly slalomed down the touchline and blasted a narrow shot at goal. Already, Costly's combination of size and speed was troubling Costa Rica. Keylor Navas in the Costa Rica goal managed to push the shot out, and Wilson Palacios blasted the follow up shot harmlessly high.
Honduras continued to dominate play, controlling the midfield tempo and wanting the game more than the bewildered visitors.
The first “goal” caused a fair bit of controversy. As Costly went in for a cross, he caught goalkeeper Navas. The ball was hooked off the line, but eventually fell to Honduran Mauricio Sabillion. He drilled a low shot in past the prone Navas, who was injured.
After much deliberation and delay, the referee waved the goal off. Navas had to be substituted for reserve 'keeper Ricardo Gonzalez.
After half an hour, Costly finally got a goal to stick. Palacios scooped the ball into the box, where Junior Diaz failed to deal with it properly. His weak header fell straight to Carlos Pavon, who passed the ball a yard to his left where Costly had a better angle. The striker didn't miss from his open position in the box.
A minute later, Costly picked up a yellow for diving in the corner of the Costa Rica box.
Hard tackles continued fly as both team went at each other, desperate for the valuable points. Costly had another chance saved before five minutes of injury time were added on.
Seven minutes in to the second half, Pavon doubled the score. He spun his marker, Freddy Fernandez, and coolly sidefooted into the bottom corner of the goal from 25 yards out. It was a crucial lapse from both defender and goalie that allowed a solid lead to be built up.
That goal seemed to motivate Costa Rica more than anything else had. Some nifty flowing work around the box found Alvaro Saborio in the box, but the striker skied his shot. Earlier, playmaker Walter Centeno had pinged a narrow freekick off the upright.
'Keeper Gonzalez showed why he was brought along to the match, albeit in a substitute role, roughly 20 minutes into the half. An in-swerving corner looked destined for the net, but Gonzalez punched off the crossbeam. From the next corner, the ball fell to Danilo Turcios who drilled into the feet of Gonzalez.
Two minutes later, Pavon raced in free on goal but cleared the goal when he really should have put the game out of doubt.
Straight from that play, the Ticos had their best chance in what was turning into an open match. Saborio challenged Honduras 'keeper Noel Valladares for a cross and the ball squirmed past both of them to the open Esteban Sirias. However, the ball wouldn't sit for Sirias and he ended up missing the goal once pressure arrived.
Heading into the last ten minutes, Honduras took the sting out of the game by slowing down the tempo and controlling the midfield battle once more.
With one minute left in regular time, Honduras finally made sure of the win. A chip over the Costa Rican defense found substitute Melvin Valladares. He dragged the ball past one defender before easily slotting home for a three goal lead.
A minute later, Costly hit again to make it a rout. Substitute Julio Leon, who had been very bright since entering on the hour mark, ran at the Costa Rican defense. With the outside of his foot he played a little dink to Costly who was waiting on the outside of the backline. From there, it was an easy sidefooted effort that made the score 4-0.
In injury time, Costa Rica actually had the ball in the back of the net, but it didn't count because Saborio had bumped into the goalkeeper in the buildup.
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