Paulo Wanchope scored both goals as Costa Rica defeated Guatemala 2:1 Tuesday and moved to the top of Group E in the Semifinal Round of FC qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In the days other match, Mexico valiantly struggled to break down a massed Canadian defense, finally using a goal from Jose Manuel Abundis and an own goal for a 2:0 victory in Mexico City.
Costa Rica now sits on six points from three matches, thanks to their second consecutive home victory. Guatemala is second with four points, while Barbados (three points) and USA (one point) play Wednesday night in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Wanchope opened the scoring in the 34th minute when he finally headed home from nearly the goal line as the ball bounced around the Guatemala penalty area on a cross from Hernan Medford, the only survivor of the only Costa Rica team to reach the World Cup finals in 1990.
Wanchope, who transferred from West Ham United FC to Manchester City FC in Englands Premier League last week, then added his second just before the hour as he was first to a ball played behind the Guatemalan defense, poking past Guatemalan keeper Edgar Estrada as he came rushing off his line then slotting home into the empty goal.
Substitute Dwight Pezzarossi pulled a goal back for Guatemala, heading home from inside the penalty spot to set up a tense final 20 minutes. But it was Costa Rica who had the better final stretch, seeing two goals disallowed, though the match finished on an unsavory note with a string of nasty tackles and Guatemalan defender Gustavo Cabrera sent off just before full time.
Mexico found it heavy weather against a Canadian side often with all 11 players behind the ball, much to the chagrin of the crowd at the Estadio Guillermo Cañedo (Azteca), who whistled the home side off the field as the half ended scoreless. The best opportunity of the half came when Francisco Palencia hit a quick angled shot on the turn that beat Canada goalkeeper Pat Onstad only to see it come straight back off the far post into Onstads arms.
But just three minutes into the second half, Ramon Ramirez found Miguel Zepeda down the right flank, whose driven cross sailed across the top of the six to the back post where Abundis was a step ahead of his marker. His first-time left-footed shot whistled inside the post as Onstad desperately tried to get back across his goal.
The Tricolores again hit the woodwork on a freekick from Pavel Pardo, but the scoreline was flattered by a second which also started from a Pardo freekick lofted into the area, Canada defender Paul Fenwick unlucky to head over his own keeper as he battled Abundis in the area.
Mexico is now tied atop Group C with Trinidad & Tobago with six points, while Panama and Mexico have taken one each. Trinidad & Tobago plays host to Panama tomorrow in Port-of-Spain.
Alajuela, Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, 11:00
Costa Rica Guatemala 2:1 (1:0)
1:0 Paulo WANCHOPE 34; 2:0 WANCHOPE 58; 2:1 Dwight PEZZAROSSI 68
R: Argelio SABILLON (HON)
Booked: Rolando Fonseca, Austin Berry, Rodrigo Cordero (CRC); Fredy Garcia, Edgar Estrada, Julio Giron, Dwight Pezzarossi, Carlos Ruiz (GUA)
Sent off: Gustavo Cabrera 89 (GUA)
Mexico D.F., Estadio Guillermo Cañedo (Azteca), 14:00
Mexico Canada 2:0 (0:0)
R: William MATTUS (CRC)
1:0 Jose Manuel ABUNDIS 48; 2:0 Paul FENWICK 81 og
Booked: Pavel Pardo, German Villa, Jose Manuel Abundis (MEX); Jason Bent, Mark Watson, Marc Bircham, Paul Stalteri (CAN)