Mexico win CONCACAF U-20 crown
Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Mexico shone when they needed to, outlasting Panama 4-2 in a drama-packed penalty shootout to win the 2015 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship at the Montego Bay Sports Complex on Saturday night.
The teams were locked at 1-1 after a thoroughly entertaining full-time and the two periods of extra time.
The goalkeepers were at their imperious best, but Mexican José Gonzalez had the final say, saving well from Edson Samms and Carlos Small to give his team victory and a third straight hold on the title - their 13th overall, a longstanding CONCACAF record.
Guillermo Martinez, Alenjandro Diaz, Erick Aguirre and José Robles were on target from the spot for Mexico, while Ismael Diaz and Fidel Escobar converted for Panama.
best game of the championship
It was by far the best game of the championship, with Mexico slight favourites entering the match. The Panamanians had a lot going for them too, running through the opposition without conceding, but all those statistics were tested by the Mexicans.
Panama succumbed to the potent Mexicans in the 50th minute, when Martinez scored. The goal settled some Mexican nerves, after Panama came flying out of the block.
They had one attempt on goal saved well by Gonzalez and a shot from an acute angle smashing into the upright, all in the first five minutes of action.
Panama got back into the thick of things when Fidel Escobar scored from the spot in the 73rd minute, to set up a tense finish.
For the remainder of the contest, it was all action for both keepers as they were tested at will by both groups of attackers.
Panama's goalkeeper was brilliant throughout the match, but his exceptional save in the 78th minute, diving full stretch to his right to claw out a Guillermo Martinez effort, was perhaps the save of the night.
The Panama keeper was rewarded for his outstanding performance with the Golden Glove (top goalkeeper of the tournament) award.
His opposite number too was brilliant, pulling off two great saves to deny the rampaging Panamanians late on in the game.
Mexico could have won the match in the 84th minute, when on a brilliant build-up, the ball was picked up by their outstanding centre forward, Alejandro Diaz, whose whip-like shot crashed against the crossbar, with the Panama keeper beaten.
Mexican midfielder Hirving Lozano and American striker Romain Gall shared the Golden Boot award (most goals, five), while Lozano was named MVP.