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Mexico overcome a hostile El Salvador to remain in first place of CONCACAF’s World Cup Qualifiers

Mexico dominated El Salvador to get a 2-0 away win and continue in first place of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualification.

El Salvador v Mexico - Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Photo by Alex Peña/Getty Images

Mexico prevailed over a hostile San Salvador crowd to get their second away victory in the 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers with a 2-0 win over El Salvador. Mexico was the better team against an El Salvador side that offered some fight, but not much more. and got a deserved victory to remain in first place of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Mexico will now have to face the two toughest away matches in November when they travel to Cincinnati to face the United States and then to freezing Edmonton to face Canada, but will have a buffer by remaining in first place and the boost of having had another FIFA date where they got seven out of nine points.

The first half started with Mexico making eight changes from past lineups, in a bid to rest players after having a very similar starting lineup for the games against Canada and Honduras. Mexico came close when Hirving “Chucky” Lozano got to a cross, but his header went wide. Later Alexis Vega got off a shot from outside the area, but El Salvador’s keeper Mario Gonzalez easily saved it. Minutes later it looked like Nestor Araujo had been injured and had to get medical attention. He would however return to the match. Mexico had a brilliant chance off of a corner kick when Osvaldo Rodriguez got a wide open header, but it went wide. Later it was Vega who looked to have been injured and got medical attention. El Salvador had their first opportunity with a left footed shot from Alexander Larin, but it went wide. Vega couldn’t get back and Jesus Corona was subbed in to take the injured player’s place. After a good combination play, Carlos Rodriguez got off a shot from outside the area that forced Gonzalez to make a great save. Then in the ensuing corner kick, Hector Moreno rose to get a header past Gonzalez for the 1-0 lead. It was an incredible thing, as it was Moreno’s third goal in the Estadio Cuscatlan, the stadium where he scored his first and second goal with the Mexican National Team. Mexico then responded with a shot by Lozano that Gonzalez batted away for another corner kick. Off a longball that was lowered, Rogelio Funes Mori got off a shot from way outside the area but the ball went wide. The halftime whistle blew and Mexico took a lead to the locker room after dominating a match where El Salvador had failed to answer back after the goal.

The second half started with both teams hoping to give a good performance, El Salvador to come back and Mexico to close it. Then in a controversial call, referee Drew Fischer gave Mario Jacobo a straight red card after bringing down Rogelio Funes Mori. It really shouldn’t have been a red call in a terrible job from the Canadian referee. After the red card, Corona took the free kick but it hit the outside net. El Salvador made their first move by subbing out Darwin Ceren for Lizandro Sarabia. Mexico wasted a good opportunity when a shot by Lozano got deflected into the feet of Orbelin Pineda, whose left footed shot went wide. El Salvador subbed out Joaquin Rivas for Walmer Martinez. A minute later, Luis Romo fell and it looked like he had been injured. Mexico then subbed out Orbelin Pineda, Rogelio Funes Mori, and Osvaldo Rodriguez for Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez, and Jesus Gallardo. In the first play for Jimenez, it looked like he was tripped in the area but the referee didn’t give the penalty kick. A minute later Nestor Araujo made a strong foul and got his second yellow card. It was an incredibly stupid play from the European based player, who had left the worst feeling. Mexico immediately subbed out Hirving Lozano for Luis Rodriguez. The red card had livened El Salvador up and left Mexico reeling a little bit. El Salvador made three substitutions by subbing out Bryan Tamacas, Isaac Portillo, and Marvin Monterrosa for Marcelo Diaz, Joshua Perez, and Amando Moreno. It looked like El Salvador was going all out for the tie. With a great combination play between Corona and Herrera, the latter would make a great pass to Corona, whose close range shot was saved by Gonzalez. Mexico continued to have the more dangerous attacks as El Salvador never threatened. Then after Raul Jimenez went into the area, he got brought down by Eduardo Vigil and a penalty kick was given. Raul Jimenez stepped up to take the penalty, and with a softly placed right footed shot scored the 2-0 lead. The game was now done as Mexico got a clear victory to continue in first place in the CONCACAF qualifiers.

It wasn’t pretty or as efficient as they perhaps would have liked, but Mexico got the deserved win. Against a crowd that booed the Mexican national anthem and constantly threw debris on the field, Mexico had control of the possession and created chances unlike El Salvador, who had at most two shots, with Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa not even needing to make a single save. Mexico could have finished the game earlier and not troubled themselves like they did when Araujo was sent off. Yet Mexico was able to handle El Salvador’s “reaction” and were able to get another goal for a better goal differential. So after a troubling start to the FIFA date with a tie against Canada at home, they bounced back to get six points and once again get seven out of nine points to continue in first place. They will have a very tough November, with the toughest away games against the United States and Canada but in 2022 they will come in with at least 14 points and with four matches at home for a potential twelve points. It seems Mexico under Coach Gerardo Martino is in a prime position to book their ticket to the World Cup and take a rest from qualifying until the 2030 World Cup edition.