Panamanian forward Ernesto Sinclair scored a hat trick to lead visiting Costa del Este to a 3-1 win over San Francisco in the first leg of their semi-final playoff clash in the Apertura 2018, the first tournament of the Panamanian soccer league's 2018-2019 season.
San Francisco found itself behind the eight ball 10 minutes into Sunday's match at Estadio Agustin Sanchez when Colombian defender Humberto Mendoza was sent off for a hand ball in his team's area.
The home side faced the prospect of being a man down for 80 minutes and also found itself behind on the scoreboard when Sinclair scored from the penalty spot in the 11th minute.
Costa del Este, which had qualified directly for the semi-finals after finishing first in the 18-match regular season, doubled its lead at the 21-minute mark when Sinclair headed home a cross from midfielder Yair Jaen.
All the momentum was in Costa del Este's favor, but San Francisco's players shrugged off the deficit on the scoreboard and their numerical disadvantage to produce their best soccer in the ensuing minutes.
Forward Edson Samms pulled one back for the hosts in the 26th minute with a right-footed blast on a free kick and midfielder Jhamal Rodriguez nearly scored the equalizer when his shot clanked off the left upright in the 33rd minute.
The game began to be played at a frenetic pace, with both teams producing scoring opportunities on either end of the field.
On one of his team's forays into San Francisco's area, Sinclair completed his hat trick after receiving a diagonal pass from Carlos Rodriguez in the 44th minute.
Although Costa del Este head coach Angel Sanchez instructed his players to keep possession and work the clock in the second half, Sinclair continued to find opportunities to wreak havoc on San Francisco's defense.
In the 59th minute, he broke free from a defender and sent a pass into the area to Boris Alfaro, but the striker was unable to convert the opportunity.
Costa del Este kept control of the ball in the final minutes of the game, while Samms, Rodriguez and Guido Rouse tried unsuccessfully to narrow the visitors' lead.
The second leg will be played on Nov. 24 at Rommel Fernandez Gutierrez Stadium in Panama City.
The winner between Costa del Este (which played in Panama's second division last season) and San Francisco will take on either Arabe Unido or Tauro in the final of the Apertura 2018.
Tauro leads that other semi-final 2-0 after the first leg.