Osael Romero scored twice, including the game-winner in the 86th minute, as El Salvador upset Costa Rica 2-1 in the opening game of the Gold Cup tournament.
The contest opened in physical fashion, as within the first seven minutes, Costa Rican defenders Freddy Fernández and Leonardo González both received yellow cards following blatant fouls. The early physical play set the tone for a game that saw neither side settle into an offensive rhythm nor enjoy any stretches of significant possession.
El Salvador opened the scoring in the 19th minute, when goalkeeper Miguel Montes sent a long punt to forward William Reyes who headed the ball into the path of Romero in the left side of the penalty area. Romero faked a shot with his left foot, beating Costa Rican defender Pablo Herrera, cut the ball back to his right foot and fired a shot into the far corner for a 1-0 lead.
After falling behind, the Costa Rican attack improved. Celsio Borges hit the post with a header in the 40th minute and, in the 64th, Costa Rica tied the score when Esteban Sirias crossed the ball into the path of substitute Warren Granados, who hit a sliding right-footed volley into the top of the net.
In the waning minutes of the match, as the game seemed destined for a tie, Romero struck again. Salvadoran midfielder Rudis Corrales picked off a pass at midfield and hit a through ball down the right flank to Reyes. Reyes sent a cross into the Costa Rican penalty area where it appeared Costa Rican defender Herrera would be able to clear the ball and extinguish the threat. But Herrera mishit the clearance attempt and the ball rolled right to Romero at the top of the box, who hit a first time strike into the bottom right corner of the net.
Costa Rica was unable to muster any significant threats in the final four minutes and lost the opening game in the Gold Cup for a third time in team history. Costa Rica hadn´t lost to El Salvador since 1997, a stretch of 12 games.
The Costa Rica team, known as La Sele, will play again Tuesday against Jamaica at 7 p.m. (5 p.m. local) at Columbus Crew stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Jamaica lost 1-0 to Canada on Friday. Canada and El Salvador are atop Group A with three points.