Strikes in the last two minutes from Rafael Marquez Lugo and Oribe Peralta gave Mexico a comeback win over a determined Venezuela outfit in El Tri's first game of the year.A Mexico side composed entirely of domestic-based players mounted a second half comeback to overcome a resilient Venezuela side in Houston, winning 3-1 thanks to two late goals from Rafael Marquez Lugo and Oribe Peralta. Edgar Perez Greco opened the scoring for Venezuela from a corner kick early in the second half, but Mexico pulled one back through Carlos Salcido before completing its comeback in the final two minutes of regulation.
Mexico started the match in strong fashion, moving the ball well especially down the flanks. The fullbacks and wingers on both sides proved adept at pinning back the Venezuelans, though most attacks tended to break down in the box.
"Our system of play has been good," El Tri Jose de Jesus Corona said. "We need to learn to adapt it on every pitch we play on."
The best chances for Mexico came in the 23rd and 25th minutes. First, Javier Cortes, who caused plenty of issues for Venezuela's defense, got free down the right side and flashed a cross in front of goal, but it was just behind the wide-open Marco Fabian and Peralta, who couldn't connect. Less than two minutes later, Peralta rattled the crossbar with a header from a corner kick, Mexico's best chance of the half.
"We handled the ball most of the game, they didn't do anything to go out there and win the match," Peralta said.
Near the half hour mark, Peralta appeared to be hauled down in the penalty area by a Venezuela defender, but the referee waved play on.
Venezuela, for its part, looked threatening on the counter, and Corona had to be alert on more than one occasion. The best chance came as Jose Reyes forced a save out of Corona with a well-hit shot from distance.
Venezuela also proved capable of shutting down Mexico in the midfield as the half went on, forcing Mexico to rely more and more on its flank play, which wasn't enough to grab El Tri a goal before the half.
"It was a very disputed match, no doubt about it," Corona said.
The vinotinto capitalized on their positive play early in the second half to take a shock lead. Miguel Mea Vitali delivered a corner on the right side and Perez Greco ghosted in at the near post between three Mexico defenders and flicked the corner into the net.
"It was a mistake on my part on the corner kick -- I didn't see [Greco]," Peralta admitted.
The goal shocked a suddenly sluggish Mexico, but head coach Jose de la Torre's choice to move Salcido into a more central position paid dividends in the 68th minute as Javier Aquino laid it off to the former Fulham man, who let fly with his less-favored right foot. The shot took the slightest of deflections off Perez Greco, rendering it impossible for Venezuela goalkeeper Leo Morales to keep it out of the net.
Just as Venezuela's goal had stunned Mexico, Salcido's strike brought his team back to life, with substitutes Javier Aquino and Edgar Andrade caused plenty of havoc, interchanging positions on the wings.
As Mexico looked like it would have to settle for a draw, Aquino ended up playing the hero on 88 minutes, sliding a precise through pass to Marco Fabian. Though the Chivas man had his initial attempt saved, Marquez Lugo was on hand to nod home the rebound.
While Mexico fans were just returning to their seats, they were roused once more by a fine strike from Peralta. Again, Aquino was at the center of things, doing well to keep the ball alive in the area before it found its way to Peralta, who unleashed a left-footed effort into the top corner to seal a Mexican win in the 89th minute.
Mexico is back in action on Feb. 29 against Colombia in Miami, with Venezuela traveling to Spain to face the defending world champion on the same day.