By DAN KARELL
Mexico probably thought that two goals from Javier Hernandez was more than enough to ensure a crucial road victory in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
Turns out, they were wrong.
With 13 minutes remaining, Hondurans’s Carlos Costly and Jerry Bengtson each scored goals to tie the match at 2-2, keeping the hosts at the top of the qualification standings. The match was played in front of over 37,000 fans in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with temperatures soaring over 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the field.
The result was a positive one for the rest of the CONCACAF teams still in the running, but Jamaica could not turn an early goal into a victory, tying with the visiting Panamanians 1-1 in Kingston, Jamaica.
A Marvin Elliott header put the Reggae Boys on top, and things seemed to be heading their direction, before a second-half equalizer from Luis Henriquez leveled the score, denying Jamaica their first win since last October. The draw leaves both teams level with two points from two matches, with Tuesday’s matches a new chance to break away from the rest of the pack.
El Tricolor manager Jose Manuel de la Torre said before the match that it was not life or death if his side didn’t defeat Honduras. But certainly with the way the match unfolded, he won’t be too happy about dropping two points.
Hernandez, consistently scoring for both club and country, got off the mark in the 28th minute, heading in a cross from teammate Andres Guardado into the far post for a 1-0 lead. The 24-year-old forward doubled the lead in the 54th minute, extending his right foot onto a free kick from Carlos Salcido, glancing the ball past Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
But the Hondurans, who looked so comfortable at home in February against the United States, worked their way back into the game, and were rewarded for their efforts. In the 77th minute, Carlos Costly used all of his 6-foot-3-inch frame to rise above his defender, and power a header into the back of the net.
Three minutes later, Costly earned his team a penalty, when he was clumsily brought down in the box by Mexican defender Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez. Bengtson, stepping up to the spot, hit the ball low, with Guillermo Ochoa making an amazing save. But the rebound went right back to the New England Revolution forward, who finished into the opening net.
The draw leaves Mexico still searching for their first win of 2013, drawing on three occasions, while making anything but a win on Tuesday against the United States a near disaster. For Panama, who has never qualified for the World Cup, Henriquez’s goal means that their hope of making the World Cup is still alive. On the other side, Jamaica will be ruing a chance to pick up a win at home.
What did you think of Friday’s matches? Do you feel that Mexico is in trouble? Are you surprised with all the draws?
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