June 27 – Ten-man Martinique upset El Salvador with an accomplished 2-1 victory after early goals from Patrick Burner and Kevin Fortune to claim joint top spot in group C.
Clinical in attack and brave in defense, with an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Yannis Clementia, the island nation won their first Gold Cup match since 2019 to retain a good chance of advancing to the quarter-finals and emulate their best-ever result from 2002 against underwhelming El Salvadorians who failed to ignite.
Martinique played with a man down after 48 minutes, rode their luck at times, but richly deserved the three points against an apathetic opponent, who rallied late but in vain.
Martinique made their way into group stages via the preliminary round play-offs that completed in Fort Lauderdale last week.
After a shaky start, Les Matino picked their opponents off on the counter to strike twice in the first 20 minutes, leaving El Salvador with a mountain to climb.
Martinique relied on their speed and agility to transition to construct two well-taken goals. On the left, Burner latched on to a cross pass from Florent Poulolo to find the bottom right corner with a crisp finish before the team worked their way from right to left where an unmarked Kevin Fortune delivered a clinical 16th-minute strike, 2-0 and his fourth Gold Cup goal. Martinique showed why they were competing in their fourth consecutive Gold Cup.
Shellshocked, El Salvador needed time to regroup and stung Martinique’s goalkeeper Clementia’s hands twice with dangerous attempts from Bryan Landaverde and, in the rebound, Leonardo Peñate. Martinique however contained the probing forwards and lurked on the counter to return to the dressing room with a 2-0 advantage following a sensational first half that included just 34% of ball possession and 15 steals.
They were on their way to spectacular victory, but Martinique’s second half got underway in dramatic fashion with a straight 48th-minute red card for Jonathan Rivierez.
The task in hand for Martinique then was simple – defend or die, and yet El Salvador once again failed to build momentum quickly, and when they did have the ball in the net in the 65th minute, it was ruled out for offside.
As Martinique tired, space opened up and Joshua Perez and Cristian Gil tested Clementia from acute angles. Martinique were hanging on for dear life, pinned back in their own half.
Not even from the penalty spot could El Salvador score, Clementia at full stretch to deny Henriquez in the 83rd minute. The miss was emblematic of El Salvador’s lethargic match. Clementia’s interventions were nothing short of heroic and reflective of his team’s commitment. El Salvador did score in the end, Bryan Tamacas converting a 95th-minute penalty, but it was too little too late.
Martinique celebrated a historic victory and can dream of the last eight facing Panama on Friday. The El Salvadorians will need some introspection to analyse where it all went wrong before they meet Costa Rica.
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