Panama was up 3-0 and up a man with just over a half hour to play. Guadeloupe was dead and buried. The match was over, at least that was the common thinking. The Gold Cup has no room for common thinking though. Guadeloupe battled back to score two goals, but it wasn't enough. Panama barely hung on to grab a 3-2 win over Guadeloupe in the Gold Cup Group C opener at Ford Field in Detroit, MI, but it was hardly a win that will inspire confidence in the Panamanians.
The scoring started with Blas Perez in the 29th minute. Luis Tejada chested a ball down to Perez, who was in behind the Guadeloupe defense. Guadeloupe thought Perez was offiside, but the flag never went up and Perez finished easily.
Just three minutes later Panama had themselves a second and this time Tejada did the finishing. A quick counter-attack led to Tejada getting the ball with only a couple scrambling separating him from the goal. A quick cutback took care of those defenders and Tejada put his shot into the side for a 2-0 lead.
Things got worse for Guadeloupe when Mickael Tacalfred was shown red for stepping on a prone Panama player after arriving late to the ball. A second half penalty that put Panama ahead 3-0 should have ended the match, but it didn't.
Panama went to watching instead of defending. Brice Jovial raced around one defender while another defender watched and Guadeloupe had themselves one goal. It was nothing though. It sure became something when Jovial got his toe to a cross and deflected it in for a second goal though. All of a sudden, it was 3-2. The comeback wasn't completed though as Panama just barely held on.
Panama is now atop Group C with three points, while Guadeloupe has none and the United States and Canada yet to play. Panama will play next against the U.S. on Saturday in Tampa Bay, FL and Guadeloupe will play the Canadians.