With goals from Omar Bravo and Pavel Pardo, Mexico regained their composure and, at least momentarily, quelled fears of impending doom with a 2-0 win over Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifying match in Estadio Azteca on Saturday afternoon.
The win gives Mexico three points and restores some of the faith that
seemed to have been slipping since El Tri began their streak of four
winless qualifying games late last year. Now, Mexico enter Honduras
with some points and possibly a bit of swagger.
Mexico were disciplined and organized defensively and limited Costa
Rica's scoring chances throughout the match. The Mexican midfield and
defense were stronger than their Tico counterparts while the attack did
just enough to put the game away.
Mexico began the match with
seemingly a grand advantage as a sold-out crowd of more than 110,000
greeted El Tri onto the immaculate Estadio Azteca pitch. Starting
forwards Matias Vuoso and Omar Bravo nearly combined for an early goal
as the two raced into the Costa Rican penalty area and won a corner
kick just nine seconds into the match. Mexico showed early that they
would play with a sense of urgency but neither side dominated
possession in the early going. In fact, it was Costa Rica who had an
early scoring chance when Michael Umana nearly got onto the end of a
free kick that sailed over Mexico's defense and toward the back post,
but the ball sailed a bit high over Umana's outstretched leg.
was Bravo who gave Mexico an early lead. In the 20th minute, Vuoso
slipped a pass to Bravo some 30 yards out. Bravo darted toward the
penalty area, slipped past Costa Rican defender Junior Diaz and ripped
a shot on goal. Costa Rican 'keeper Ricardo Gonzalez made a save but
the rebound went straight to Bravo, who easily knocked it into the back
of the net. The goal was Bravo's 15th goal for Mexico in his 71st game.
Having been mired in a months-long slump with Deportivo la Coruna,
Bravo recently returned to Mexico and perhaps his games with Tigres
have helped him regain his confidence.
Mexico won a free kick on
the left flank when Costa Rica's Esteban Granados tackled Andres
Guardado from behind and earned a yellow card for the challenge. The
set piece, however, did not yield any results.
Vuoso was inches
away from possibly doubling Mexico's lead but he fanned on a header at
the half-hour mark. A cross came in from the left flank and Vuoso had
space between Costa Rican defenders but his attempt was off. Around 10
minutes later, Vuoso was booked after a late slide tackle on Fernandez
in the middle of the field.
After the break, Mexico came started
with the same players who began the match. Costa Rica, meanwhile,
brought on Alvaro Saborio in favor of Granados as manager Rodrigo
Kenton went in search of more offense.
Mexico won a corner kick
in the 52nd minute after Roy Myrie was ruled to have knocked Pardo down
from behind inside the penatly area. Pardo took the penalty kick
himself and easily converted the penalty kick.
later, Costa Rica tested Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa for the
first time. Saborio lined up a 30-yard free kick and fired a low, hard
shot on goal. Standing on the goal line, Ochoa went down to the ground
and stopped the shot.
In the 59th minute, Guardado ripped a
25-yard shot from the left flank and Gonzalez did well to turn the shot
away. On the ensuing corner kick, Vuoso pushed a header just wide of
Costa Rica's Junior Diaz fired a shot on goal minutes
later and forced Ochoa to make a save. Still, Costa Rican players
seemed in a haze during the early moments of the second half and were
creating little dangerous possession before Diaz's shot. Second-half
substitutes, Saborio and Pablo Brenes added to Costa Rica's attack and
helped the Ticos look a bit more dangerous than they had.
trailing by two goals, Costa Rica could not break through Mexico's
well-planted backline. Gerardo Torrado, who replaced Andres Guardado in
the midfield midway through the second half, gave Mexico more bulk in
the middle of the field while Jonny Magallon took Ricardo Osorio's
spot, but Costa Rica were doing little before then to penetrate into
Mexico's third of the field.
Costa Rica whimpered quietly to finish the game and will return home to
play El Salvador while Mexico travel to San Pedro Sula for a game
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa;
Ricardo Osorio (Jonny Magallon, 80), Leobardo Lopez, Aaron Galindo,
Fausto Pinto; Fernando Arce, Pavel Pardo, Leandro Augusto, Andres
Guardado (Gerardo Torrado, 80); Omar Bravo, Matias Vuoso (Omar
Costa Rica: Ricardo Gonzalez; Roy Myrie (Armando
Alonso, 60), Michael Umana, Freddy Fernandez, Junior Diaz; Oscar
Granado (Alvaro Saborio, 46), Celso Borges, William Sunsing (Pablo
Brenes, 51), Oscar Rojas; Andy Furtado, Bryan Ruiz.
Mexico - Bravo 20
Mexico - Pardo (penalty kick) 52