COLUMBUS, Ohio – Once again, Ali Gerba provided all the offence Canada needed.
Gerba scored in the 32nd minute as Canada remained undefeated at the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 1-0 victory over El Salvador on Tuesday. El Salvador defender Manuel Salazar misplayed a cross from Canadian captain Paul Stalteri. The ball fell to Patrice Bernier, who sent a low shot on goal. Gerba redirected the attempt in behind goalkeeper Miguel Montes, quieting the blue-clad, pro-El Salvador crowd with his second match-deciding goal of the tournament.
Gerba also scored the only goal in Canada’s 1-0 win over Jamaica to open the tournament on Friday. The Toronto FC striker has six career Gold Cup goals, breaking the record of five previously held by Carlo Corazzin.
“That’s his job,” interim coach Stephen Hart said of Gerba. “He scores goals, he gets himself into good position, he makes it hard for defenders.
“Tonight, he pinned back both central defenders and once again he came up with the goal.”
Gerba, 27, a Cameroon native who grew up in Toronto, has scored five times in the last four matches dating back to a 2-2 draw with Mexico on Oct. 15 in Edmonton.
He has 15 goals for Canada in 26 appearances.
El Salvador (1-1-0) will play a decisive Group A game against Jamaica in Miami on Friday as it seeks to advance to the quarter-finals. Canada (2-0-0) faces Costa Rica needing only a tie to advance
Earlier Tuesday, Costa Rica defeated Jamaica 1-0.
Bernier almost made it 2-0 for Canada in the opening minutes of the second half but his powerful, low strike from inside the area, after a creative build up, went just wide of the left post.
El Salvador’s Salvador Coreas forced Canadian goalkeeper Greg Sutton into making a crucial two-handed stop in the 54th minute when his bending strike from 30 yards out almost slipped under the crossbar. El Salvador pushed in latter part of the second half but were unable to produce an equalizer.
“For us, I thought it was a great performance from start to finish,” said Atiba Hutchinson, who was named man of the match. “We went out and had a plan and stuck with it.
“We’re a well-organized soccer team and we got the goal we were looking for. We were very good defensively.”
It was the fourth straight shutout win for the national side since Hart took charge on April 17.
“We’ve come along quicker than I thought because we didn’t have a lot of time together,” said Hart. “Tonight, was for me, pleasing, because we played more consistently than we did the game before.”
Despite good possession from Canada early, El Salvador had one of the better first-half chances after winning a free kick from 22 yards out in the 19th minute, directly in front of Sutton. Osael Romero’s right-footed attempt sailed over the Canadian wall and the net.
Canada answered immediately with an opportunity from midfielder/forward Will Johnson. Johnson took the ball on the right flank and created some space but his blast from a few yards inside the area just went over the near corner of Montes’ net.
“We had to try and control the midfield but Canada definitely had a stronger approach and we had difficulty with that,” El Salvador coach Carlos de los Cobos said through an interpreter.
Josh Simpson was the only change to Canada’s starting 11 from the opening match last Friday. Simpson, a 26-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., started on the left side of midfield in place of Marcel de Jong.
The two nations last met in Los Angeles on Oct. 8, 1999, a 2-1 win for Canada. With the win, Canada’s all-time record against El Salvador is now 7-4-2.
Earlier, Celso Borges’ goal in the 64th minute gave Costa Rica (1-1-0) the win over Jamaica (0-2-0).
Borges slid to get under a low crossing pass from second-half substitute Pablo Herrera, knocking the ball beneath the arm of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
Jamaica played a man down after a midfielder Rudolph Austin was shown a straight red card by referee Jair Marrufo for his tackle against Borges in the 35th minute. But the Reggae Boyz held their own with 10 men, pressing the attack at the start of the second half before surrendering the decisive goal to Borges.
Jamaica forward Omar Cummings squandered an opening against goalkeeper Ricardo Gonzalez in the 51st minute, hesitating on his shot and giving three Ticos defenders time to close ranks and snuff out the opportunity.
Eleven minutes later, Jamaica midfielder Demar Phillips found space inside the penalty area and sent a shot skimming just over the crossbar and off the top netting.
Walter Centeno barely missed putting Costa Rica ahead in the 20th minute when his header from eight yards beat Ricketts but deflected off the crossbar.
A spinning shot from Cummings left Gonzalez flat-footed as the ball dipped rapidly behind his head but bounced off the upper-left corner of the goal and out of play in the 29th minute.