CARY, N.C. — In the thick North Carolina air, a young Panama national team dominated Trinidad & Tobago in a 3-0 victory Thursday at Sahlen Stadium in the first game of the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship.
During the matinee performance of Day 1 in Group A, Panama showed it had more bite than the mosquitos around the pitch. Panama pushed through several in-game injuries to secure the victory.
Panama dominated the first half with more than 53 percent possession and the opening goal. Forward Marta Cox capitalized on the holes in Trinidad & Tobago’s back line 12 minutes into the match. After flooding the six-yard box, Panama winger Natalia Mills laid a ball off for Cox to finish four yards out from the goal. Panama finished the half with 11 shots to Trinidad & Tobago’s four shots.
Late in the second half, Cox made an attempt at a brace. Teammate Kenia Rangel sprinted down the left flank before lofting a ball into the air. Attempting a bicycle kick, Cox fell to the ground just missing the shot.
Trinidad & Tobago’s closest counter occurred in the waning seconds of the first half when loan striker Kennya Cordner charged toward the Panama goal. Goalkeeper Yenith Bailey came out to make the stand-up save.
Desperate for reinforcement to start the second half, Trinidad & Tobago substituted 2018 Caribbean qualifiers top scorer Kayla Taylor for Cordner. The switch nearly paid off minutes later when Taylor stepped up for a 30-yard free kick that sailed just left of the Panama goal.
Panama started the second half playing more of the possession game and sitting back. Midfielder Kenia Rangel broke free of the settled play and added the second Panama goal. During the play, Trinidad & Tobago defender Jenelle Cunningham went down with a non-contact leg injury.
Then another player hit the ground. This time it was Rangel in the 87th minute. The goalscorer was taken off on a stretcher. Her replacement, forward Erika Hernandez, immediately made an impact and scored Panama’s final goal.
The victory comes at a cost for Panama. Rangel had to be carted off the field, and later carried to the team postgame circle, with an apparent leg injury.
Panama’s next match is a tall task Sunday at 5 p.m. ET against the defending champion United States national team.