Roberto Alvarado, Jose Juan Macias, and Rodolfo Pizarro were on target as Mexico won 3-1 over Panama on Tuesday to take full control of Group B in the CONCACAF Nations League.
After beating Bermuda 5-1, the pressure was on Mexico to get their first tournament win at home, in what was also coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s first ever game at the Estadio Azteca.
While the scoreline might suggest a comfortable win for El Tri, the truth is Martino’s men struggled at stages of this game.
After Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, starting as the team’s striker for the first time, hit the bar from long range, Mexico grabbed a 28th minute lead when Roberto “Piojo” Alvarado floated his way into the box and unleashed a left-footed strike into the back of the net.
Panama put far from a determined performance in the first half, but they got incredibly lucky at the stroke of halftime when a bad giveaway from Rodolfo Pizarro led to a Carlos Salcedo own goal.
Los Canaleros then had a chance to take the lead early in the second half when Raul Gudiño had to come to Mexico’s rescue, getting down well to block a Gabriel Torres shot.
In the 66th minute, Chucky had to leave the match with an apparent ankle injury. Despite playing out of position, Lozano was heavily involved for Mexico, but that also meant he was hit a lot by a Panamanian defense that resorted to dirty tactics to make up for their lack of defensive awareness.
Coincidentally, it was Chucky’s replacement, Jose Juan Macias, who made the difference. After a smart through ball pass from Roberto Alvarado, JJ Macias was there to drive in the go-ahead goal.
In injury time, Rodolfo Pizarro made sure of the three points, placing the ball past goalkeeper Luis Mejia after a brilliant reception and pass from Uriel Antuna.
With the win, Mexico remain top of Group B of the CONCACAF Nations League and are practically assured a place in the Semifinals.