TORONTO, ON – Looking once again like they were headed for another scoreless game, Canada just needed a moment of history on Friday night to pick up a win that could propel them into the final round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
Dwayne De Rosario’s 20th career goal in a Canadian national team uniform with just less than 15 minutes remaining gave Canada a 1-0 victory over Panama in front of 17,586 at BMO Field. The victory puts the Canucks atop Group C in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying.
The goal made DeRo Canada’s all-time leading scorer, less than a week after he scored the 100th goal of his MLS career.
The hosts had controlled play from the opening whistle only to see chance after chance go wanting. But they were finally rewarded in the 76th minute when they won a free kick on the right side of the area after Canada striker Simeon Jackson was fouled by Panama midfielder Amilcar Henríquez. Atiba Hutchinson played it quickly and Panama appeared to be asleep, as an unmarked De Rosario easily tapped in the cross.
Just as it was against Honduras on the same field in June, Canada dominated possession and chances in the first half, but as it was then, their finishing was again off.
Kevin McKenna sent a clean header in the seventh minute. In the 33rd, De Rosario had an attempt from inside the area saved by Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, and Olivier Occean’s follow of the rebound deflected wide.
Just three minutes later, McKenna got his head to a Will Johnson free kick, but it rattled agonizingly off the right post and out for a goal kick.
In the second half, Panama came at the hosts a little more but still failed to trouble the Canadian goal, as the hosts again controlled the ball for vast portions of time. In the 59th minute, De Rosario headed a chip back to Occean, but his low shot from the left side missed the far side.
The breakthrough in the final quarter of an hour may have been unexpected, but it’s a huge breath of fresh air for the Canadians ahead of the return match in Panama City on Tuesday night. Canada top Group C with seven points, one ahead of Panama halfway through the semifinal qualifying round in CONCACAF.