GOLD CUP: Mexico & Honduras advance in tight contests
We now know one of Wednesday’s semi-final match ups. After two hotly contested matches Mexico and Honduras survived the first round of the Gold Cup knockout stages and will meet Wednesday in Houston for a spot in the finale.
The headliner Saturday night was Mexico who found themselves in a surprising hole after the first 45 minutes. The outlook of the match was turned upside down when Guatemala’s Carlos Ruiz put his side up 1-0 just five minutes after first kick.
The shocking early goal sent a noticeable shiver down the spine of a Mexican side that was expected to walk to the semi-finals. El Tri put their foot on the gas and attacked throughout the balance of the first half but when the whistle blew the score line still read 1-0.
Coming out of the locker room the urgency was again evident in Mexico. They pushed forward and broke through just three minutes into the second stanza. Aldo de Nigris – who was inserted at the half for Israel Castro – followed a Hector Moreno header to draw El Tri even.
The tie did not lessen Mexico’s resolve as they continued to push forward for the win. Several missed chances and 18 minutes later Manchester United starlet Chicharito booked Mexico passage to Houston for the semi-finals with a cheeky back heel off a Pablo Barrera pass for the game winner.
After the tougher than expected match the Mexican side is headed to Houston to face a Honduras team that went the equivalent of 12 rounds with Costa Rica in what can be kindly characterized as a battle of attrition.
After playing to a tough – and at times ugly – 1-1 tie, the teams entered a penalty shoot-out to determine who would go to Houston to face Mexico. Costa Rica hit the crossbar twice and Honduras buried all four of their chances to put the Catratchos through.
The goat tag will likely be pinned to Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio who missed a penalty kick in the second half and then again in a penalty shootout. The RSL forward was reportedly upset enough to avoid the media after the performance.
In addition to Saborio’s miscues, the match itself was tough to watch. The final touch was missing for both squads and neither team looked to be dangerous at anytime.
Jerry Bengsten got Honduras on the board four minutes into the second half with a simple tap but Dennis Marshall pulled the Ticos even just minutes later. With the score locked both teams pushed but the technical quality lacked and Honduras took advantage of the penalty shoot-out to advance in the tournament.
Action resumes Sunday afternoon with the United States facing Honduras in the matinee and Panama and El Salvador meeting in the night cap.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and contributes to Soccerlens.com during the Gold Cup. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.