Panama, one of six CONCACAF representatives in this year's Copa America Centenario, took on South American minnows Bolivia on Monday night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando in a match that saw a combined 43 fouls.
Early Panamanian pressure pays off
The action would come early and often as Panama took control early on with a barrage of shots, most notably with Gabriel Torres hitting a volley wide of goal in the second minute amidst shouts for a penalty.
The Panamanians would continue to push toward goal in the 5th minute with Torres threatening from a free kick which Bolivian keeper Carlos Lampe did well to tip over the bar for a corner.
Torres' strike partner on the night was Blas Perez, and he would turn provider in the 9th minute when his chipped pass found Armando Cooper. However, his shot sailed over the bar as Panama continued their early push for a goal.
Perez would get his just desserts in the 11th minute, converting Alberto Quintero's low cross from the left side for Panama's first ever Copa America goal.
Bolivia attempt to respond
Juan Carlos Arce would nearly answer for the Bolivians just a minute later but former Los Angeles Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo claimed the ball authoritatively before Arce could make full contact.
Penedo would again come to the rescue in the 16th minute as he parried Arce's shot wide following an excellent pass from the free kick to the Bolivar man.
Bolivia continued to threaten late in the first half as they looked to even the score as Martin Smedberg-Dalence sent a free kick toward the goal; however, Gabriel Gomez would save the day at his own expense, blocking the shot with his head while proceeding to look visibly shaken.
The first half ended with momentum firmly in the Bolivians favor but to no concrete effect as they failed to find a goal despite a myriad of chances.
Second half: the battle ensues
The second half began far more combatively with referee Ricardo Montero going to the whistle for the umpteenth time all match as the rain poured down in Orlando and his hesitancy to produce cards continued.
Bolivia punish missed chances
Juan Carlos Arce would finally bring the Bolivians level in the 54th minute, when he dinked the ball into the back of the net following a poor clearance of a free kick from the Panamanians and shifting the momentum again.
The second half would continue to be chippy and combative following the goal with both sides exchanging chances and blows. Perez would attempt to catch the keeper out in the 70th minute with a flicked volley from distance, but Lampe was alert to the danger despite spilling the shot.
Panama apply the pressure, reap the rewards
Lampe would again play hero in the 74th minute, parrying Quintero's shot as he spun and hit the ball toward goal before saving the follow-up header from the corner by Panama captain Felipe Baloy.
Panama substitute Luis Tejada would come closest to breaking the deadlock in the 85th minute latching onto a deflected shot in front of Bolivian keeper Lampe, but the 34-year-old would curl his shot wide, painfully close to goal.
The Panamanian onslaught would be rewarded late on as substitute Abdiel Arroyo would muscle past the Bolivian defense to find Blas Perez in the box, who slotted home the winner for Panama in the 87th minute.
Bolivia would get forward soon after looking for a response but the Panamanian defense held strong to secure a crucial victory for the Central American side in their first ever Copa America match.