Mexico made it six out of six with a comfortable win over El Salvador on Tuesday night.
The result in Torreon was never going to matter much to a Mexico side already qualified for the Hexagonal, but the home side nevertheless looked like the one with more to play for as El Tri saw off El Salvador with relative ease, 2-0.
Coach Jose Manuel De la Torre opted for a mostly alternative lineup to the close-to-first-choice team he had sent out against Guyana four days earlier.
The defensive line of four was anchored once again by Maza Rodriguez, but he paired with newcomer Joel Huiqui in the middle. Severo Meza returned to the right flank while Adrian Aldrete turned up on the left.
In midfield, the two holding mid scheme remained in tact, with Jorge Enriquez getting the start alongside Carlos Peña. Andres Guardado took his usual left wing spot with Angel Reyna out on the right, and Oribe Peralta and Aldo Di Nigris providing the targets up top.
Predictably after so many changes, El Tri started the match off in fits and starts, as both sides approached the rival’s area to generate half chances without really looking threatening.
In the 32nd Mexico finally created a clear opportunity when Reyna danced his way by a defender on the right side and served a ball into the box. Aldrete ran onto to it but was caught in two minds and skied his close range attempt well over Dagoberto Portillo’s goal.
After a close range Guardado effort was blocked before it could get to the goal, Di Nigris let a golden chance go begging when he opted to try to cross the ball rather than shooting at goal with only Portillo to beat.
Minutes later, Reyna shifted momentarily over to the center and beat three Salvadorans with a slicing run before gliding a smooth chip just over the goal.
The match would head to halftime scoreless, becoming increasingly more meaningless for both teams as Costa Rica pulled away from Guyana in San Jose, leaving El Salvador with no chance of advancing no matter the result.
With nothing on the line, the second half quickly became a scrimmage, with finishing on both sides more befitting of a back lot pick up game. Seven minutes in, Guardado was in free on the left side, and his delicate chip beat Portillo but slid just wide of the goal.
Mexico was peppering the Salvadoran goal now, and after Di Nigris once again misfired from close range, Portillo came out his net to hack down Peña from behind on the right side of the box. Everything looked fine to Panamanian referee Jafeth Perea, though, and the match continued scoreless.
That would change shortly after, when Peralta finally brought the deadlock to an end in the 64th minute. The Torreon native tapped home with ease after Portillo spilled a rebound from a Reyna shot off a short corner.
By then Chepo De la Torre had brought on Javier Hernandez and Elias Hernandez, and with the addition of Hector Herrera immediately after the goal the Mexican offense began to flow more smoothly.
Herrera nearly converted in the 71st minute just four minutes after coming on, striking the woodwork with a shot from outside the box.
Mexico would have several more chances from close range as El Salvador appeared to throw in the towel, but the second wouldn’t come until the dying minutes when Elias Hernandez slipped free on the right wing and fed the ball into the area for Chicharito to expertly guide home.
That closed out a remarkably successful semifinal round for El Tri, which took a perfect 18 points from six games in what had at first seemed a complicated draw. Mexico now sets itself on next year’s Hexagonal, which begins in February.