By Andrew Winner

SEATTLE -- Carlo Costly headed home a free kick in the 76th minute to give Honduras a 1-0 victory over Haiti in the Group B opener of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Despite controlling possession for a large portion of the game, Haiti conceded a needless free kick in the corner, which led to the game-winning goal.

Haitian substitute Markdrel Sampeur challenged Marvin Chavez near the corner flag as he ran away from the goal, drawing the referee's whistle. On the ensuing restart, striker Carlo Costly beat James Marcelin to the cross and headed inside the far post.

"The match was very tight. There were chances for both sides," Honduras coach Reynaldo Rueda said. "It's important to start winning, and today Honduras won."

It was a tough blow for Haiti, which had the majority of the chances.

"We saw (our) team playing very well tactically but with the set pieces it was very poor," said Haiti coach Jairo Rios through a translator, saying that he believed a tie would have been a fair result. "I don't think we needed to have conceded that foul but it happened."

Both teams had opportunities early, but neither seriously threatened. Perhaps the best chance came from a low cross by right back Sirin Vaniel, but none of the Haitian attackers were able to beat Honduran goalkeeper Donis Escober to the ball.

Haiti looked more active and energetic in the first half, moving the ball with relative ease and committing players forward. Fabrice Noel led Haiti's attack, causing problems with his speed. He had one of the better chances of the half, lashing a shot wide of the near post from distance.

Outside backs Frantz Gilles and Vaniel made several runs forward as the Haitian defense looked in control in the first 35 minutes of the game.

The final 10 minutes of the half, however, belonged to Honduras.

In the 38th minute, Honduras finally got their first real chance. Carlos Martinez collected a cross at the far post and launched a knuckling drive from a tough angle that Zephrin blocked at the near post with his legs.

Martinez, who directed much of the Honduran offense, led a counterattack a couple minutes later but failed to connect on the final pass to Costly.

Honduras looked dangerous to take the lead before halftime, with defender Nery Medina's blast from 35 yards parried over the bar by Zephirin.

With the United States playing the second match of the doubleheader, the crowd started to fill in during the second half. The fans watched Haiti maintain pressure in the second half.

Leonel Saint Preux forced a save at the far post from Honduran keeper Donis Escober with a strike from distance. Neol and Saint Preux combined nicely for Haiti as the underdog continued to test the favored Hondurans.

The pace of the match slowed as the second half approached the midpoint and neither team looked threatening. Haiti had a penalty appeal turned down a few minutes later while Saint Preux controlled and shot into Escober's midsection.

Then came Costly's goal, which deflated Haiti.

Honduras had two excellent chances to double the lead, but Pierre Richard Bruny saved a ball off the line for Haiti after George Welcome had beaten an onrushing Zephirin with a lofted shot. Honduras granted Haiti another reprieve minutes later as Costly had a promising breakaway but failed to control the ball.

Both teams are back in action in four days. Honduras plays the United States in Washington on Wednesday, while Haiti will hope to rebound against Grenada. In the post-match press conference, the Miller Lite Player of the Match Costly said he thinks his team can advance.

"We want to win more and hopefully we will be able to," Costly said. "The team is always pushing to go forward."

On the other side, Haiti's Rios liked what he saw from his team despite the loss.

"We are progressing and implementing our proposed plan," Rios said. "In the next game we probably have a better result."

Game Stats


Shots on goal


Shots wide




Corner Kicks