1-1 (68) Byron Pérez (pen.)
0-1 (41) Carlos Gonzáles
Sun. 15 May 1988
Estadio Marquesa de la Ensenada,
Ref.: Julio Salas (USA)
L1: Edward Ballion (USA)
L2: Arturo Angeles (USA)
Having secured a 1-0 away win in the first leg in Cuba 15 days earlier, Guatemala would have to be considered favourites to progress through to the next round of World Cup qualification. Rather than their usual venue for home qualifying matches, the Guatemalan FA had opted to play this tie away from the capital, with the town of San Marcos in the vicinity of the Mexican border, some 150 miles away from City of Guatemala, stageing the tie.
Retrieving information for this particular fixture is a tricky task. Based on available information from the first encounter in Havana, the Guatemalan team, at least its starting eleven, is identical with what was seen there.
Manager is Jorge Roldán.
Having lost the tie on home soil, Cuba’s coach Roberto Morero had seemingly opted to make just a single alteration to his starting line-up, replacing midfielder Ramón Arredondo with Juan Palmero.
44 year old Julio Salas, representing the United States, although he was born in Peru, was one of seven US referees in 1988 and 1989 on the FIFA list. He had moved from Lima to America as a 19 year old in 1962, and was a General Electric employee.
This was the fifth time altogether that the two countries had been paired, although they had never previously crossed paths in World Cup qualification. The first leg a fortnight earlier had been their inaugural such encounter, and Guatemala had come away from the Caribbean island with a 1-0 win. That had been their first meeting in 27 years, when Guatemala had won 2-0 in a CCCF championship fixture in Costa Rica.
The total record read two wins each.
|1 Ricardo Antonio Piccinini
|2 Juan Manuel Dávila
|3 Allan Wellmann
|5 Víctor Monzón (c)
|6 Kevin Sandoval
|7 Carlos Martínez
|9 Edwin Westphal
|10 Sergio Rivera
|11 Byron Pérez
|13 Félix McDonald
|16 Carlos Castañeda
|12 Adán Paniagua
|18 Luis López
|21 Noel Argüelles
|3 Manuel Plácido
|5 Juan Francisco Caro
|Pinar del Río
|6 Carlos Gonzáles
|7 Jorge Isaac Querol
|Santiago de Cuba
|8 Rolando Rodríguez
|9 Jorge Maya
|12 José Rivero
|14 Regino Delgado (c)
|18 Reemberto Piedra
|Ciego de Ávila
|19 Juan Palmero
|15 Reynaldo Revé
|17 Luis Armelio García
The stadium in San Marcos appears packed to its rafters, and though we do not have an immediate visual from the side where the cameras are positioned, this will be revealed later in the first half. The available coverage is an excellent production, with plenty of time devoted to the pre-match ambience, although the picture quality is desperately poor. One might furthermore suspect that the pitch is a relatively uneven one, something which will be confirmed once the match gets under way. It is the visitors, in need of a win in order to progress, who get the ball rolling.
There’s an early scare for the home side, when Rolando Rodríguez along the Cuban left hand side hits a first time cross into the centre, and thanks to a deflection off a defender, the ball nearly sneaks into the back of the net via the near post. However, goalkeeper Ricardo Antonio Piccinini, whom we hear from the commentators had played a major role in Guatemala’s win in Havana, is alert enough to beat the ball away for a left wing corner, though he injures himself in the process. While the game carries on before the ‘keeper is allowed treatment, the hosts fend the set-piece off without too much ado, and eventually Piccinini can be attended to.
Further injury worry ensues for the home side, as tall striker Edwin Westphal accidentally clashes with Cuba ‘keeper Noel Argüelles, who comes off his line to claim a high ball. Argüelles collides with the Guatemala number 9 and lands on top of the lanky striker, who immdiately signals that he’s injured. His face writhes in agony, and the Guatemalan medical team attends to him for several minutes behind the visitors’ byline. It seems to be his left ankle which had taken the brunt of the impact, and it quickly becomes clear that he was unfit to continue. The home side eventually go through with the substitution on 17 minutes, almost seven minutes after Westphal had gone down, as replacement forward Adán Paniagua comes on. He’s not in the same powerfully built mould as the player whom he had arrived for.
The first half is quite an even affair, with Cuba certainly not much inferior to the hosts. They show particular enterprise along their left hand side, where Carlos Gonzáles and the aforementioned Rodríguez test the mettle of the home side’s right-back Juan Manuel Dávila. He’s a fierce competitor, is Dávila, though he doesn’t always receive a lot of support from the wide midfielder ahead of him, the diminutive Carlos Castañeda. Gonzáles or Rodríguez look to cross the ball high for lone forward Reemberto Piedra to get on to, though the striker appears more comfortable when he can pick the ball up along the ground and turn goalwards.
Guatemala look particularly lost for ideas in the centre of the park, where Félix McDonald and the blonde Kevin Sandoval are featuring. McDonald is a busy little player, though energy alone doesn’t get him very far in this contest. Sandoval covers plenty of ground, and is a physical, well-built player, though clearly not equipped with the greatest range of distribution. Castañeda along the right hand side is time and again seen in possession, and he enjoys to take his full-back on, and it is Gonzáles as the Cuban left-back who typically tussles with Castañeda. A wasted free-kick 22 yards out and a totally scuffed effort from the edge of the box is what little Guatemala offer during the first 22 minutes.
While there is not a whole lot going in either goalmouth, there’s finally something noteworthy happening for the vociferous home crowd to cheer half an hour in. The Guatemalans move forward along their right hand side, though Castañeda checks and plays the ball across to Byron Pérez, who is their wide left man. He picks the ball up in a more central position, advances a few yards and strikes from around 25 yards out. However, his shot arrives at a comfortable height for Argüelles to catch and gather safely. Still, could it be something to spur both crowd and players on alike?
There’s a Cuban scare on 37 minutes when the highly active Rodríguez bursts into the area from the left and lets fly a shot with his left peg, a shot which Piccinini beats away for another corner. The ensuing flag kick eventually sees defensive midfielder Jorge Isaac sky an effort from a fine position inside the area. Cuba have certainly come the closest to opening the scoring, which they in fact do a mere four minutes later, as an attack which is built along the right on this occasion sees midfielder Juan Palmera play in his colleague José Rivero to the right inside the area. He sees up and spots the attacking Gonzáles in a central position, and upon receiving the pass, the left-back takes a couple of steps and takes aim low and finds the back of the net inside the post. Cuba are all of a sudden level in the tie, and they are level on merit.
A greater frequency in the footwork of the home side’s more advanced players can be seen in the wake of the goal, and it is really needed, as they have toiled without mustering much for nearly the entire first period. There’s another nasty looking challenge from the Cuban ‘keeper as he unceremoniously mows Paniagua down at the same time as he comes to collect a low ball. The substitute forward is fortunate not to exit the game the same way as his predecessor.
The little Carlos Martínez, who operates in something mirroring a second forward role for Guatemala, behind Paniagua, has not been involved a whole lot until the final few minutes of the first half, which has well over three minutes of time added on due to the injuries to both Piccinini and Westphal. Another low Pérez strike had drawn another save from Argüelles with the original 45 minutes almost up.
As the referee signals for the half-time interval, Cuba are a goal up on the day and level in the tie. This sure makes for an interesting second half. Players of both teams had displayed plenty of commitment, whereas technical ability hadn’t always reached the same level, something which the bumpy pitch also had to accept part of the blame for. There had also been a booking right in the aftermath of the goal, though exactly what for Rodríguez had earned his yellow card we do not know.
No half-time changes in personnel, and it was the home side to recommence the action through early substitute Paniagua and Martínez, kicking from right to left as the camera was looking.
The home crowd were less expressive at the start of the second half in comparison to before the game had commenced. They were surely feeling the tension, as Cuba had pegged the aggregate score back to level terms thanks to that first half strike. Could Guatemala up their game after the break?
There was not much suggesting in the first 15 minutes of the period that they could, although they had summoned up a few set-piece situations. A long throw-in from the right as well as three corner-kicks had seen Cuba focus on defending their territory, although it was the visitors who were looking the more lively in open play, and particularly on the break. They’d arrived at two opportunities, although Piedra had not managed to keep the ball in play as he had looked set to run through the Guatemalan defence on his own, while Rivero’s effort from distance had gone well wide of goal.
Pérez had at times looked a tricky customer down the Guatemalan left hand side, and it was also him who was trusted with the responsibility of putting right wing corners into the area. On the second attempt of the final 45, right on the hour mark, his corner found its way through to the other side of the area, where left-back Rivera had arrived only to see his shot slice off his left foot and end up well wide. With half an hour still left, that aggregate scoreline remained intact at 1-1.
The Cubans make their first substitution on 62 minutes, when Reynaldo Revé replaces midfielder Palmero. With limited knowledge on the Cuban individuals, it is difficult to read into this precisely what manager Morero had in mind, though with still a considerable amount of time left for play, one would not assume that he was thinking to instill a more defensive plot. Thus it was probably a like for like change. Briefly afterwards, a shot from the edge of the area following a dreadful clearance by Rivera in the Guatemalan defence gave a Cuban player the chance to hit a shot just wide of target with Piccinini beaten. This prompted Roldán to make Guatemala’s second substitution of the game, as the limited Sandoval went to sit down for Luis López.
Without having really looked like scoring since the restart, Guatemala are all of a sudden presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to go ahead in the tie. They execute a poorly struck free-kick from 28 yards through the combative sweeper Wellman, though as the ball is recouped, the often lively Pérez scoops the ball into the hand of Cuba skipper Delgado inside the area. The referee has no doubt in his mind that it warrants a penalty, and it is that man Pérez trusted with the responsibility. He tucks it calmly away low to the right, sending Argüelles the opposite way. 1-1 on the night, and Cuba have it all to do again if they wish to reach the next phase.
When López had come on, Pérez had switched into a more central position to complement McDonald since Sandoval’s departure. The substitute was working wide. The diminutive Martínez was also at times a lively figure, although he’d not been directly involved in creating any opportunities as yet. On 74 minutes, though, he’s pressuring goalkeeper Argüelles following a backpass from Delgado, and with the custodian late in picking the ball up from the floor, Paniagua steals in and snatches it from him. However, he is too close to the byline to cause real embarrassment, as the replacement striker can only hit it across the face of goal and out of harm’s way.
Time no longer favouring visitors
A quarter of an hour remained for the Cuban team to achieve that goal. Were they beginning to tire, though? Guatemala had looked somewhat revitalized after their equalizer, perhaps unsurprisingly. Goals often carry an element of energy along.
There was plenty of nerves around the stadium still; it wasn’t as if the Guatemalans had it all their way. With 12 minutes remaining, one of the Cuban players, we can’t really tell who, due to the poor picture quality, chests a pass down from the recently arrived García to the left just outside the area. He swivels and hits it first time goalwards, in the process drawing a top notch save from Piccinini, who leaps to hold on to the ball which had looked goalbound just beneath the angle of the bar and the post. Spectacular stuff.
The visitors gave it all they had. They believed until the final moment, which arrived exactly one minute into added time, as the referee signalled an end to a thrilling game. In the 90th minute, captain Delgado, who had unfortunately been adjudged to have handled Pérez’ cross for the penalty earlier, could have made amends as he was played in on goal inside the area. Arriving to the right of goal, he was closed down by a recovering defender, and sent his shot hurriedly wide of goal. Two minutes earlier, Piccinini had comfortably gathered a low effort from the edge of the area.
Upon the final whistle, some Cubans sank to the ground, completely distraught. They had felt that they’d done enough to warrant a win on the night, though as it were, it were the home side going through to the next qualifying round.
A goal down from the first leg, the Cubans gave it a right early go, though it would appear that there was indeed greater quality throughout the Guatemalan team, which would soon enough dominate the possession. However, they failed to create openings, and had also lost big striker Westphal early due to one of a few reckless interventions by Cuba ‘keeper Argüelles. The visitors were looking threatening on the break, and went ahead on the day late in the half thanks to a clever low strike from full-back Gonzáles.
The second half once again saw the hosts enjoy the majority of the possession, although they did appear to lack a cutting edge. There was not an awful lot between the two teams, as Cuba defended competently, and they still were looking to hit the Guatemalans on the break. The duels between home captain Monzón and lanky striker Piedra were often a highlight. Guatemala then drew level from the spot after the otherwise spotless Delgado had been adjudged to have handled a cross. Pérez sent the goalkeeper the wrong way. A couple of efforts from distance tested home ‘keeper Piccinini, while Cuba skipper Delgado had a major opportunity with regulation time running out.
All in all the hosts just about deserved to make it through to the next round based on what they showed in this leg. Monzón possibly the best player on the pitch.