It took just three minutes for the first signs of ill temper to emerge. While setting up for a set piece, Carlos Vela stuck an elbow into the Panamanian defender, earning a yellow card that will keep him out of the final due to card accumulation. Then, in the 25th minute, a similar situation ended with Luis Tejada of Panama earning a straight red card.
Tejada was contesting an aerial ball with Francisco Rodríguez, and the Panamanian extended his hand/forearm into Rodríguez’s face as he jumped. Referee Mark Geiger didn’t hesitate to show Tejada a straight red card, sparking furious protests from the Panamanian bench as well as from the players on the field. An incredulous Tejada refused to leave the field for several minutes but was eventually escorted off, leaving his team with just 10 men.
Mexico quickly racked up huge possession numbers thanks to their extra man, but their attack once again proved largely toothless. Panama, despite their numerical disadvantage, tested Guillermo Ochoa several times before halftime, while Mexico managed just one shot on target in the first half.
Panama continued to look dangerous in the second half, and the Canaleros shocked el Tri as Román Torres put Panama in front with a header in the 56th minute. 10-man Panama was leading 1-0 just minutes after Vela had nearly scored from a free kick at the other end.
Mexico remained toothless going forward despite attack-minded substitutions from Miguel Herrera, and as the clock ran down it looked like Panama was on the verge of a huge upset.
However, in the 88th minute, Mexico was gifted their second dubious penalty kick in as many days, as Panama captain Román Torres was whistled for a supposed handball. It would be nearly 15 minutes before the PK was taken, however, as bottles rained down from the stands, the benches cleared to engage in pushing and shoving, and Panama threatened to walk off the field.
Eventually the kick was taken, deep into stoppage time, and Andrés Guardado converted it to send the match to extra time. That goal marked the fifth straight Gold Cup game where Panama took the lead only to concede an equalizer and end regulation tied 1-1.
The controversy didn’t end there. In the 105th minute, Geiger called a second penalty. This time there did seem to be merit to the call, although replays showed that there was a hint of offside in the build up. Guardado converted it once again to make it 2-1 for Mexico, a scoreline that saw them into the final, where they will face Jamaica.
Despite playing up a man for 95 minutes, Mexico did not look at all impressive and needed two penalty kicks to get past a shorthanded Panama.
The game was a nasty, ill-tempered one from start to finish both on and off the field. Ten players received yellow cards in addition to Tejada’s red, while the match was further marred by poor behavior from the fans, who more than once rained bottles and cups down on the field and the players.
Panama: Jaime Manuel Penedo, Adolfo Machado, Román Torres, Harold Cummings, Erick David, Valetín Pimentel (Luis Henríquez 87′ – Alfredo Stephens 108′), Aníbal Godoy, Armando Cooper, Alberto Quintero, Roberto Nurse (Abdiel Arroyo 78′), Luis Tejada.
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa, Paul Aguilar, Diego Reyes, Francisco Rodríguez, Oswaldo Alanís (Carlos Esquivel 46′), Miguel Layún (Javier Orozco 77′), Jonathan dos Santos, Héctor Herrera (Jesús Manuel Corona 58′), Andrés Guardado, Carlos Vela, Oribe Peralta.