Drama aplenty as Panama qualify and Peru clinch play-off spot

Two howlers hogged the headlines in a dramatic day of World Cup qualification yesterday.

First, a "phantom goal" helped hosts Panama defeat already-qualified Costa Rica 2-1 and secure their first World Cup appearance in history.

The controversial moment came in the 53rd minute, when a Panama corner bounced awkwardly off Gabriel Torres towards the net and, while forward Blas Perez dived head-first to try to force it home, the ball was blocked on the line by Costa Rica defender Ronald Matarrita.

Somehow, he scrambled it clear but Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez Castellanos, who was outside the box, awarded the goal, which cancelled off Johan Venegas' 36th-minute opener for Costa Rica.

There was no doubt about Panama's winner from Roman Torres, however, after he hammered home a volley in the 88th minute to spark wild celebrations in Panama City's Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

Panama's 2-1 win, coupled with Honduras' 3-2 victory over already-qualified Mexico, meant the elimination of the United States, who lost 2-1 to bottom side Trinidad and Tobago.

The other controversy was in South America, where Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina made a blunder during their 1-1 draw with hosts Peru.

As a result of his error, Chile - the national team of his Arsenal teammate Alexis Sanchez - were eliminated.

Colombia were leading 1-0 in the qualifier in Lima, when Peru were awarded a free-kick outside the box in the 74th minute.

Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci raised his arm to indicate that it was an indirect free-kick, which meant at least one other player besides the free-kick taker had to touch the ball for it to be a goal.

Peru's veteran striker Pablo Guerrero stepped up and took a direct shot at goal, which would not have counted. However, Ospina did not seem to realise the situation.

He tried to save the free-kick and touched the ball before it went over the line.

Chile, who lost 3-0 to Brazil in Sao Paulo, could still have clinched fifth place and a play-off spot if not for this goal. But the 1-1 draw saw Peru take the play-off spot against Oceania winners New Zealand instead.

Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi quit after the game and star Arturo Vidal announced his retirement from international football. - WIRE SERVICES