Not even 15 minutes into the game, it looked like bad luck was going to doom Haiti in their Group B match against Costa Rica. But with their knockout stage ticket already punched, Haiti used a little redemption and some late magic to continue one of their best tournament runs in decades.
Djimy Bend Alexis scored the winner in the 81st minute after Costa Rica’s opening goal deflected off him in the early stages as Haiti topped the group with a 2-1 victory.
Former Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio tried to head in a cross in the 13th minute minute, but it struck Alexis in the chest as they two battled in midair, and the deflection took the ball past Haitian keeper Johny Placide for an early 1-0 lead. Costa Rica nearly doubled their lead right before halftime, but Haiti defender Jems Geffrard cleared the ball off the line after a Placide save.
In the second half, Haiti striker Duckens Nazon was fouled in the box in the 56th minute, and stepped up to convert his own penalty, firing a shot into the top corner past Leonel Moreira. But the fullcomeback would have to wait until the final ten minutes.
HAITI TAKE THE LEAD!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 25, 2019
What a moment for 21-year-old Djimy Alexis
As it stands Haiti will finish on of Group B. pic.twitter.com/dIfxQiYjRI
Derrick Ettiene, the New York Red Bulls attacker playing at his home stadium of Red Bull Arena, started off an attacking run pushing the ball deep into Costa Rica territory. His touch pass to fullback Alex Christian was centered across the six yard box where New York City FC fullback Ronald Matarrita misplayed it, setting the ball up for Alexis who smashed it home and send a raucous crowd into a frenzy.
The 2-1 victory for Haiti sets up a quarterfinal match against Group A runners up Canada. Haiti had never before won a group in the modern Gold Cup era, and this is the fourth time they have qualified for the knockout stages. Costa Rica needed only a draw to top the group on goal differential, and now face Mexico in their quarterfinal matchup.
In the consolation game of Group B, Bermuda capped of a solid debut campaign with a 2-0 win over Nicaragua.
Lejuan Simmons was involved in both goals in the second half, scoring the first following a wonderful through ball from Osagi Bascome at midfield and firing home to the far post. Nicaragua keeper Henry Maradiaga got a hand to the shot but could not keep it out as Bermuda took the lead in the 60th.
Ten minutes later it was Simmons’ turn to pull off a great pass, whipping in a perfect cross to Nahki Wells in the middle of the box who redirected the ball to double Bermuda’s lead in the 71st.
Bermuda proved to be a lively side in the group despite their elimination, with a pair of 2-1 losses to the quarterfinalists Costa Rica and Haiti to go along with their 2-0 win over Nicaragua. Bermuda showed why they qualified for CONCACAF’s Nations League “A” Flight and hopefully can continue their good form in that competition this fall against Mexico and Panama.
Nicaragua failed to earn a point for their third straight tournament and have scored just a single goal over their three Gold Cups combined (2009, 2017, 2019).
The Group A/B quarterfinals will be played on Saturday June 29th from Houston’s NRG Stadium with Haiti-Canada at 700pm and Mexico-Costa Rica at 930 pm Eastern.