Nicaragua managed to scrape passed an unfancied Belize side to make it to the play-off game for the fifth and final qualifying spot for the CONCACAF Gold Cup which is decided solely by the Copa Digicel placings.
Nicaragua, knowing a draw would suffice to see them through to the final qualification play-off game against the third placed side in Group B of the Copa Digicel, started the game in a lackluster fashion and almost with a sense of an inevitable result that would be positive in their favor.
Belize did have other intentions however, and after only eight minutes created the first real chance of the game when Harrison Roches tested the reflexes of the pinoleros goal keeper Espinoza, who had to resort to an acrobatic save to keep his team at parity.
Belize made good on its threat when, on 16 minutes, striker Byron Usher collected a long range pass from debutant keeper Lopez, and proved how effective the route one option can be by slotting his chance away and putting the underdogs one up.
Nicaragua suddenly realizing they were in a game was quick to try and respond and get its side back in this match. The equalizer should have arrived 15 minutes later when Palacios found himself all alone in front of the goal but somehow managed to see his tame effort go wide of the mark and out harmlessly for a goal kick.
Nicaragua came out in the second half, and after introducing attacking players Ledys Alvarado and Juan Barrera onto the field, began to look more and more likely to get that required equalizer.
Nicaragua had to wait until the 66th minute until they finally managed to find a way past Lopez although the manner of the goal may haunt the young rookie keeper for years to come.
Substitute Juan Barrera, danced gloriously down the touchline skipping past two defenders before seeing his crossing shot allude the young keeper and simply creep over his despairing fingertip dive to fall gently into the back of the net and draw the sides level.
Despite its now apparent advantage, Nicaragua was unable to defeat Lopez again as the young goal keeper tried to make amends for the embarrassing fashion of the conceded goal.
The draw however was enough to see Nicaragua through to the fifth and sixth placed play off to give them the chance to qualify for the first time to the CONCACAF Gold Cup and ensured that Belize yet again return home with an empty showing from this year’s Copa Digicel.
Nicaragua: 1. Dennis Espinoza, 3. Silvio Avilés, 4. Armando Collado, 5. Carlos Gómez, 6. Armando Reyes, 7. Franklin González, 8. Emilio Palacios, 9. Wilber Sánchez, (17. Ledys Alvarado), 10. Samuel Wilson, 11. Freddy de León, (19. Juan Barrera), 16. Marlon Medina.
Belice: 22. Stephen López, 3. Ryan Simpson, (15. Víctor Morales), 5. Shannon Flowers, 6. Lisbey Castillo, 7. Ian Gaynar, 9. Elroy Kuyen, 10. Harrison Roches, 12. Jeromy James, 17. Lester Serrano, 18. Elroy Smith, (8. Karieem Haylock), 19. Byron Usher.