Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
EAST HARTFORD, Conn.– When Cuba substitute Yoandir Puga’s late goal into an empty net was called back for an offside call, it looked as though Cuba’s Gold Cup adventure was over.
Less than 60 seconds later in the third minute of stoppage-time, a ball pumped into the box was side-footed home by Jenier Marquez Molina, sending Cuba into the knockout round in the process while setting off massive celebrations from the entire Cuban team and coaching staff.
The goal was the final kick of the match, with Cuba defeating ten-man Belize, 4-0, at Rentschler Field.
Ariel Martinez lead Cuba with a hat-trick, as both teams came into the match needing a large scoring margin to progress in the Gold Cup as one of the two best third place squads. Martinez nabbed his first in the 37th minute, with a seemingly harmless strike that sneaked under Belize goalkeeper Woodrow West.
The second goal came in spectacular fashion, with Martinez pulling a couple of nifty moves on Belize’s defense before smashing a shot into the top corner in the 61st minute. A red card to Belize defender Ian Gaynair in the 80th minute gave Cuba the opportunity to pour it on in the final ten minutes.
Martinez scored the game’s third in the 83rd minute, beating the offside trap to complete his hat-trick. In the final minutes of the match, Martinez sent a shot wide after chipping a defender, while Puga saw a goal scored after rounding the Belize ‘keeper West called back.