Mexico got a 1-0 win over El Salvador but left a sour taste in their performance after a reversal of fortunes. Mexico had been having bad starts in the first half only to improve in the second half, but it wasn’t the case last night where Mexico completely dominated the first half but faltered in the second. There had been a surprise after the crowd was attended by a majority of fans of El Salvador, and this helped the team who might have been expected to falter but did the opposite. After a mistake by Edson Alvarez gave Mexico the first dangerous attack to their goal in the tournament, El Salvador kept the momentum and although Mexico had some chances, they suffered more than expected.
The first half started with Mexico only making one move from the last game in the starting lineup, as Hector Moreno made his debut in the tournament in place of Nestor Araujo. A minute into the game, El Salvador was hyped by the crowd which let to a harsh tackle and a yellow card for Darwin Ceren after stomping on Erick Gutierrez. Mexico had a good opportunity but Jesus Gallardo’s low cross didn’t find a player in the area. Later there was a play from Orbelin Pineda, but his shot was blocked and thus easily saved by El Salvador’s goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez. Later Mexico had a chance, but Gutierrez failed to connect his head to a good cross from Corona. El Salvador started to get more of the ball but also opened itself for counter, one of which was a great one that Pineda wasted by holding too much of the ball and allowing El Salvador defenders to get back and block his shot. Then after a good run by Mexico, Luis Rodriguez got into the area and got off a left footed shot that deflected off El Salvador’s Ronald Gomez and went past Gonzalez for the 1-0 lead. Mexico almost got another one when a great pass found a wide open Rogelio Funes Mori but his shot was brilliantly saved by Gonzalez. Off a free kick, Hector Herrera got a great shot but it went just wide. With Mexico dominating the match, it started to turn chippy after El Salvador’s players started to arrive late with their tackles. The halftime whistle blew and Mexico had been overly superior and the score of 1-0 flattered El Salvador.
The second half started with Mexico making no changes. Carlos Salcedo got a free shot from outside the area, but it went well wide. Mexico had a great play that ended with Funes Mori getting into the area, but his shot was saved by Gonzalez. Later Funes Mori fell in the area and there was a penalty given, but it was called back because he had been offside in the play. Like in the last minutes of the first half, the game was chippy because El Salvador kept arriving late with their tackles. Goalscorer Luis Rodriguez fell after a play and looked to be injured but came back into the game. El Salvador had their best opportunity when a mistake by Jesus Gallardo allowed them to get the ball into the area but Joshua Perez whiffed on the shot. Then Mexico was in danger for the first time when Edson Alvarez lost a ball and allowed a one-on-one, but Talavera came up with a great save off Joaquin Rivas’s shot, his first in the tournament. El Salvador was playing their best game, after getting a boost from those mistakes by Mexico. Mexico almost scored an own goal when Herrera had problems clearing a cross from a corner kick and almost hit it into his own net. Mexico made their first move by subbing out Erick Gutierrez for Jonathan Dos Santos. Mexico then got a ball in the area and Pineda crashed into goalkeeper Gonzalez with the ball. El Salvador was improving as Mexico’s inability to put them away was having consequences. Alexander Larin got a free kick and hit the post as El Salvador was definitely having their best moment. Pineda would then get a ball outside the area and get off a shot that forced Gonzalez to make a great save. Mexico then subbed out Rogelio Funes Mori for Alan Pulido. El Salvador had another shot from Martinez but it went well wide. Mexico subbed out Hector Herrera and Orbelin Pineda for Erick Sanchez and Osvaldo Rodriguez. Mexico had a good opportunity with a three-on-three, but Corona’s cross into the area didn’t find a player. Later Alan Pulido got a great shot off from outside the area that forced Gonzalez to make another great save. Mexico got the win, but it left a bad taste in fans mouths after failing to kill the game and almost paying for it dearly.
Once again in 2021, Mexico has given another lackluster performance. While Mexico was the better team and got a deserved win, it was a struggle. Mexico dominated the match completely in the first half and early second half, but after the mistake by Alvarez gave El Salvador life they never let go. Mexico was too wasteful and failed to kill the game, something that was necessary especially because of the majority pro-El Salvador crowd which gave a boost to the team. Mexico was probably expecting El Salvador to falter like Guatemala did, but the energy from the crowd as well as them being a better team, prevented this. Mexico will now have a tough test in the Gold Cup Quarterfinals, where they will face a tough opponent, whether it’s Qatar, Honduras or Panama. The most troubling thing is that El Salvador squad is one of the weakest teams in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, which means that all rivals have been tough. The fact that Mexico hasn’t looked great against the United States, Honduras, Costa Rica, and now El Salvador is giving rise to fears that they will have a tough qualification process. Fans are starting to worry that Coach Gerardo Martino needs to do better, and fast.