SAN FRANCISCO -- A pair of first half penalties – both converted by Miguel Ponce – were enough to give Mexico's U-23 national team a victory in its final game before the start of Olympic qualifying next week. The game's other goal also game from a penalty, with Mouhamed Diop converting from the spot in the second half.
Backed by an almost exclusively pro-Mexico crowd, the de facto home side applied pressure straight from the start and reaped an early reward. Marco Fabian was hauled down at the far post, resulting in a penalty that Ponce blasted home.
El Tri’s continuing efforts on the ball were repaid when they were awarded another penalty kick in the 20th minute after Javier Aquino was knocked over on the edge of the area. Again Ponce took the spot kick and he made it two for him and Mexico, putting his shot straight up the middle.
Though Senegal was occasionally able to relieve some pressure, Mexico continued to make the stronger impression and were inches away from going 3-0 up just after the half hour mark. Fabian cut in to find some space just outside the area, and his long-range effort smashed against the underside of the crossbar and bounced back out into the field of play.
Mexico was more patient in its play in the second half and kept its shape across the field. It was unable to create clear-cut chances, but Hector Herrera saw his long-range lob sail off target with Senegal goalkeeper Ousmane Mane well off his line.
With both teams locked up in midfield, it appeared as though the game would peter out. However, the African side was given an opportunity to get back into the game when Souleymane Cisse was brought down by Ponce after a blazing run into the area. Mouhamed Diop converted the penalty to halve the deficit.
Substitute Erick Torres had a good chance to reestablish Mexico’s two-goal advantage not long after Senegral’s goal, but after maneuvering on the edge of the area to find space, he blasted his shot high and wide.
Alan Pulido had an even better look, but found himself at an awkward angle in his attempt to put a point-blank shot on target from Javier Cortes’ cross, and could only put it into the hands of a grateful Mane.
Torres had a chance late on after Mane spilled an easy ball right in front of his goal, but the Chivas youngster could not connect properly and flashed the ball straight across the face of goal.
In spite of an improved showing from Senegal late in the second half, Mexico was able to maintain its organization and secure a win that allows the team to enter Olympic qualifying on a high note.
Mexico kicks off its quest to get to London 2012 when it takes on Trinidad & Tobago on March 23 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Senegal, on the other hand, will meet the fourth-placed team in Asian qualifying in Coventry, England on April 23 to play off for the final spot in this summer's tournament.