U.S, Honduras squeak through to Gold Cup semis

Sat Jul 18, 2009 11:08pm EDT
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PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The United States will face Honduras in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup after both sides narrowly got through from the last eight on Saturday.

The U.S, the defending champions in the regional competition for North and Central America and the Caribbean, had to fight back from a goal down to win 2-1 courtesy of an extra-time penalty from substitute Kenny Cooper.

A controversial penalty earlier gave Honduras a 1-0 victory over Canada to end the chances of an all-North American meeting in the last four.

The U.S, fielding a totally different team to the one which reached the final of the Confederation Cup last month, went behind on the stroke of half-time when Panama striker Blas Perez pounced on a loose ball in the area and sweetly struck home.

Kyle Beckerman brought the U.S. level in the fourth minute after the break when, after a deft touch from Davy Arnaud, he blasted home from the edge of the area.

Panama keeper Jaime Penedo produced a superb save to deny Heath Pearce early in extra-time before the U.S. got their winner from the spot.

Panama defender Roman Torres made a wild challenge on Cooper -- his raised boot crashing into his opponent's midriff -- and the striker rose to convert the spot kick and ensure the U.S. remain unbeaten in nine games against Panama.

The Panama players protested strongly against the referee, surrounding him at the close of the game, and they could well face disciplinary action from CONCACAF.

Canada also felt they were hard done by when, in the 36th minute, their defender Paul Stalteri was judged to have fouled Walter Martinez as the Honduras striker attempted a bicycle kick.   Continued...

<p>Canada player William Johnson (L) is tackled by Honduras player Melvin Valladares (down) as teammate Roger Espinoza (R) looks on during their CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer quarterfinal match in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 18, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer</p>