Martinez heroics as Puerto Rico stun Haiti to take Group B slot

February 18 – Puerto Rico stunned Haiti with a 1-0 win to take them through to the group stages of the W Gold Cup and matches against Brazil, Colombia and Panama beginning next week in San Diego.

It was a huge win for Puerto Rico, ranked 103 in the world, against 51st ranked Haiti who had played at last summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Puerto Rico are a team drawn predominantly from US college football and had a 16 and 17 year-old in their squad. But they played with the resolve of seasoned professionals, expertly martialled from the side by Nat Gonzalez who organised a solid defence in front of an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Sydney Martinez.

Haiti played with their trademark physical commitment but their physicality was matched by the Puerto Ricans who got numbers behind the ball.

Haiti dominated territory if not possession from the start against a well martialled Puerto Rico defence. Haitian captain Nerilia Mondesir led from the front, driving at Puerto Rico’s defence.

Despite their control of the ball, Haiti struggled to create a clear-cut chance until the 21st minute.

Angling in from the left Shwendesky Joseph saw her shot blocked by Puerto Rico goalkeeper Sydney Martinez.

Called in to action immediately from the corner, Martinez had to quickly readjust to stop a deflected Mondesir shot.

Haiti were in control and chances were multiplying but against the run of play Puerto Rio had the lead.

A free-flowing Puerto Rico passing movement worked the ball up the right side to Danielle Marcano who turned in the box and was clipped by Roxanne Villain.

The referee pointed to the spot and Jill Aguilera shot past Kerly Theus’s right hand to make it 1-0.

Haiti were stunned. Having had 10 shots and six on target, they were behind to Puerto Rico’s only shot of the first half. Martinez had made six saves in the Puerto Rico goal to keep them in the game. Now they were leading it.

The second half began with more Haiti pressure.

On 51’ Sydney Martinez was back in action, twice saving from Batchera Louis, holding on to a long shot from Chelsea Domond and blocking a shot from Mondesir in the six yard box. Haiti were creating the chances but Sydney was equal to everything they threw at her.

On 74’ Haiti looked to have the break they were looking for. Amber Diorio caught Sherly Jeudy on the edge of the box. A VAR review saw the referee consult the monitor and point to the spot.

Mondesir stepped up and hit the penalty to a diving Martinez’s left hand that palmed the ball round the post.

It was not going to be Haiti’s day. On 78’ Jeudy saw her shot deflected on to the post.

With the clock ticking down Puerto Rico slowed the game down to secure their place in the Group B that will be played at the Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego.

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