Extra-time drama sees Canada squeeze past Costa Rica to the W Gold Cup semi-finals

March 2 – It took extra time, but Canada eventually dispatched Costa Rica 1-0 in a one-sided quarter final that saw the Canadians throw everything they had at Costa Rica’s defence and their outstanding goalkeeper Daniela Solera.

To get to that point though it took the save of the match from Canada’s Kailen Sheridan in added time to keep the Canadians from suffering a shock defeat.

In the end it was their inspirational captain Jessie Fleming who drove them into the semi-finals later this week in San Diego, winning the free kick on the edge of Costa Rica’s box that she then chipped to Evelyn Viens who headed the ball on and over a stranded Solera.

Canada had breezed through their group scoring more than any other nation in the group stages, and not conceding a goal – they still haven’t. But their worry is that even with the goals they have scored, the number of chances missed is a glaring stat that needs addressing.

Three days ago these two teams met each other in the final game of group C in Houston with Canada winning 3-0.

Canada went into the quarter final pairings as the highest ranked group qualifier. Costa Rica, level on points, goal difference and cards with Puerto Rico, advanced as the eighth ranked side only after their name was drawn first. That meant they had to face Canada again, this time in Los Angeles in the first of the quarter finals at the BMO Stadium.

Canada’s Bev Preistman made five changes from the 11 that started against Costa Rica in Houston. Jade Rose and Gabby Carle returned at full back while Ashley Lawrence and Quinn returned to partner Jessie Fleming up front.

Canada dominated the first half, much as they did in the previous fixture, but were unable to break the stubborn Costa Rica defence that got players behind the ball in numbers, martialled in the middle by Gabriella Guillen and Valerie del Campo.

On 7’ Jordyn Huitema won a corner on the right, Adriana Leon’s cross was just headed over by Jessie Fleming. Two minutes later Leon hit a left footed shot from the edge of the box into Solera arms. It was the start of a busy night for Solera but substantially aided by a defence that blocked and blunted Canada’s attack.

On 12’ Ashley Lawrence dribbling in from the right crossed across the Costa Rica box just out of reach of Canada’s front runners

A minute later Arsenal winger Cloe Lacasse drove in from the left, pulling the ball back to Fleming who saw her shot deflected for a corner.

Canada were gathering momentum and a goal seemed inevitable.

On 20’ Gabby Carle driving in from the left hit her shot over the corner of the goal, on 22’ Fleming won a free kick on the lefthand side of the box. Blocked by Costa Rica’s 9 players in the box.

Canada were pushing Costa Rica and on 29’ a one-two in the box between Huitema and Leon saw Huitema hit the return ball over the bar from 6m – she really should have done better and paid for her misses by being subbed at half time.

On 35’ Canada  a curtling corner to the back post came off Costa Rica’s defender Fabiola Villalobos’ shoulder and hit her own post. Six minutes later Solera had to save from her own player’s defensive header, diving to her left to keep the ball out.

In added time, with Solera and Fabiola Villalobos down on the edge of the box, Valerie del Campo saved a Leon shot off the line. It was desperate defence.

Canada ended the half having had 12 shots on goal, Costa Rica hadn’t had one.

Canada continued with much of the same in the second half.

Just after the hour mark Bev Priestman removed defensive midfielder Quinn, replacing her with the more attack-minded Simi Awujo.

On 66’ Leon, so often at the centre of Canada’s most threatening movement, fired over from the edge of the box. On 73’ Solera gathered another corner.  On 81’ Jade Rose volleyed over a chip in from Leon inside the area.

On 82’ Canada had their eight corner, but again nothing came of it.

Three minutes later Viens, on as a sub, delivered the ball across to Leon who miscued her left footed shot tamely into Solera. A minute later the Aston Villa forward Leon chipped into her arms. It was relentless but profligate from Canada.

The clock ticked into 8’ of added time and another Leon corner was headed inches wide, this time from Vanessa Gilles.

If you don’t take your chances, and by this stage Canada had had 20 shots on goal, it can come back to bite you.

Three minutes into added time it nearly did for Canada with, incredibly, Costa Rica’s first shot on goal, with Alexa Herrera forcing a brilliant save down to her right from Kailen Sheridan.

Into extra time and still Cost Rica absorbed everything that Canada threw at them, though Canada still contrived to miss chance after chance, the worst being from Fleming in the 9th minute of added time who somehow blasted wide from 6m.

With 13’ minutes of added time gone Fleming was brought down 8m from the top of the box. Chipping the ball directly into the centre of the box Evelyn Viens rose to glance the ball on over Solera and into the net.

There was still time for some late drama with Costa Rica now throwing everything they had at Canada. In the 29th minute of extra time Priscilla Chinchilla beat Shelina Zadorsky on the right, crossing to del Campo who volleyed over from 5m.

Canada will be relived this is over and now head to San Diego for the business end of tournament.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1713474616labto1713474616ofdlr1713474616owedi1713474616sni@n1713474616osloh1713474616cin.l1713474616uap1713474616