Rodolfo Zelaya scored off a saved penalty kick in the second half, and El Salvador edged Haiti 1-0 to advance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Monday night.
The victory earned El Salvador (1-1-1, 4 points) a berth in the quarterfinals of the biennial tournament. Haiti (1-2, 3 points) could still reach the quarterfinals as one of two best third-place teams, pending other results.
”We came here to have a good Gold Cup,” Zelaya said. ”Hopefully we can surprise some people in the next round.
”This is important for us. ”We know we’re not in the (World Cup qualifying) hexagonal round.”
Group B leader Honduras (2-0, 6 points), which already is through to the next stage, played Trinidad and Tobago (0-1-1, 1 point) in the nightcap of a doubleheader at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Zelaya netted the goal after Haiti goalkeeper Frandy Montrevil stopped his penalty kick in the 76th minute. The goal was not without controversy, as Haiti players adamantly protested linesman Philippe Biere’s foul call on Jean Marc Alexandre, which was upheld by referee Javier Santos.
It was Zelaya’s third goal of the tournament. He scored twice in a 2-2 draw against Trinidad and Tobago to open group play July 8.
”The pressure was there,” El Salvador coach Agustin Castillo said. ”We could have failed to qualify despite playing well the previous two games.”
Zelaya was twice denied by the post in the first half, including a free kick from midfield in the 39th minute that caught Montrevil off his line.
The post first foiled Zelaya in the 18th after Montrevil whiffed on a clearance attempt outside his box, giving the Salvadoran an empty net. But his shot rattled the far post.
El Salvador had a goal disallowed in the 71st minute on an offside call off a free kick.
Haiti, while more physically imposing and speedier on the wings, failed to contain the smaller but more technically sound Central American side, which controlled much of the action.
”My players today didn’t come out to play,” Haiti coach Israel Blake Cantero said. ”Their legs weren’t there; mentally, they weren’t there.
”We didn’t know how to play with the pressure of knowing we needed only a tie to advance.”