Canada grinds out draw and tops Group A

2017 Gold Cup: Canada 1 Costa Rica 1

By Matthew Gourlie

After a lot of high points and a few low ones in the opener, Canada put out a much more consistent effort to put themselves at the top of Group A Tuesday.

Canada needed nine saves from keeper Milan Borjan to earn a 1-1 draw against Costa Rica at the Gold Cup in Houston.

Canada-CR-GC2

Costa Rican defender Kenner Gutierrez, right, keeps a close eye and two hands on Canadian midfielder Scott Arfield. photo courtesy of the Canadian Soccer Association

“This point puts us in a very good position. In the end it wasn’t a victory, it was a draw, but we will take it,” said Canadian head coach Octavio Zambrano. “We can’t ask for more. We are still in first place in our group and that means a lot for us right now as we look to our third match.

“In the end we were able to grind out a draw. And sometimes you have to grind out the results.”

Canada got off to an ideal start when Alphonso Davies caught Costa Rica defender Cristian Gamboa napping at the back post and swooped in to bury a Scott Arfield pass from the other side of the area. The move began when Michael Petrasso beat a pair of Costa Ricans and then a drew a third before laying the ball off to Arfield.

Davies’ goal in the 26th minute gave him three in two matches to lead the tournament.

Costa Rica was already missing Johan Venegas and lost Joel Campbell in the 23rd minute as the Ticos were left without both players who started on the right side of their attack.

Calvo flashed an open header over the bar from eight yards out in the 19th minute, but Canada couldn’t heed the warning. Despite giving away seven inches to Canadian defender Steven Vitoria, Calvo skied higher than a back-pedalling Vitoria to head home the tying goal in the 42nd minute.

Canada v Costa Rica passing chart

Canadian passing chart v Costa Rica from 11tegen11.

Borjan punched a well-hit, near-post shot by substitute David Ramirez out of play. Calvo equalized on the subsequent corner kick.

Another positive performance and strong result was dampened when Davies went over on his right ankle in the 66th minute. Davies left the match, but Zambrano seemed confident that Davies would be fine for the remainder of the tournament.

“He’s going to be OK. That is the important thing. These are the bruises and knocks that you get when you play these type of games. He’s a young guy, but he’s very strong. I think he can withstand enough so that he will be ready for the next match,” Zambrano said. “We have have some fresh legs and we may just opt to keep him out and see how the game evolves and then put him in if needed.”

A pair of 22-year-olds — Sam Adekugbe and Mark-Anthony Kaye — each started their first match for the national team. Kaye pressed Guzman in the Costa Rican midfield to keep the Ticos from playing out of the back at their leisure. Adekugbe played his first competitive match since January 28 when he started in Brighton & Hove Albion’s 3-1 loss to Lincoln City in the FA Cup. He held up well playing left back in place of Marcel de Jong.

“They both performed well. You can see that there is potential for more. That is the exciting part about them. As well as they did — and obviously they made their mistakes, because that is part of the learning curve — what I take from this is what can be. How good they can be? I think their ceiling is quite high (for) both of them,” said Zambrano who also singled out Petrasso for praise.

Canada 1 Costa Rica 1

Goals: Davies 26; Calvo 42

Canada: Borjan; Petrasso, Jakovic, Vitoria, Adekugbe; Arfield, Piette, Kaye; Hoilett (Cavallini 77), Jackson-Hamel (Ricketts 56), Davies (Aird 69).

Costa Rica: Pemberton; Gamboa (Salvatierra 73), Gonzalez, Acosta, Gutierrez, Calvo; Guzman (Tejeda 61); Campbell (Ramirez 24), Ruiz, Wallace; Ureña.

Cautions: CRC: Gutierrez.

MOTM: Milan Borjan.

R: Mark Geiger, United States. A: 12,019, BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston.

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