Group D play kicked off in Orlando Monday night, with a Blas Perez brace leading Panama to a 2-1 win over Bolivia at a rainy Citrus Bowl.
Perez’s goals were #40 and #41 of his international career, now just one shy of Luis Tejada’s Panama record.
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Controlling play from the opening whistle, it took Panama just 11 minutes to take the lead. Alberto Quintero swung in a cross from the left wing, with Vancouver Whitecaps’ Blas Perez sliding in for a great finish off the volley.
Bolivia manager Julio Cesar Baldivieso made two substitutions at halftime that turned the match, as his side drew level less than ten minutes after the break. A misjudged free kick from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo forced his defender into an awkward clearance, which fell for an open Juan Carlos Arca to equalize.
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After a relatively even second half it looked like the match would end a draw, but it was Blas Perez again who scored a late winner for Panama. Abdiel Arroyo outmuscled his defender and slotted a pass across to Perez, who had a wide open goal in front of him.
Panama temporarily sit atop Group D with three points. Argentina and Chile play later Monday night.