By DAN KARELL
For at least the next few days, soccer fans in Mexico can relax.
After falling to Panama in their opening Gold Cup match, the Mexican National Team righted the ship against a weakened Canada side, taking a controversial 2-0 victory at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. In the first game of the Thursday double-header, Panama went top of Group A with a 1-0 triumph over Martinique, qualifying for a place in the knockout stage in the process.
Instead of giving up an early goal like in the match against Panama, Mexico’s defending held firm, and goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco stepped up to make a timely save on Canada’s Marcus Haber in the 29th minute.
Three minutes before halftime, Mexico found the back of the net, as forward Raul Jimenez, the only player who was on the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifying squads from last month, scored from the edge of the six-yard box to give Mexico the lead.
In the 57th minute, referee Joel Aguilar was forced to make a controversial decision.
Mexico’s Marco Fabian ran onto a through ball in the box, taking slight contact from Canada defender David Edgar and going down in the area, earning his side a penalty kick. The Canadian’s argued profusely that the contact was minimal with Aguilar, but to no avail, as Fabian soon slotted home his nation’s second goal, a scoreline that would stand until the final whistle.
Canada had one late chance that could have drawn them one goal back, as Marcel De Jong’s free kick pinged off the upright in the 89th minute.
Gabriel Torres played the hero for Panama for the second consecutive match, scoring the game’s only goal in a 1-0 victory over Martinique.
While the Panamanian’s were clearly the better side, Martinique goalkeeper Emmanuel Vermignon kept his nation in the game, stoning Torres on a couple of occasions. The Caribbean island’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in the 73rd minute, when Jacky Berdix was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card.
Panama took control of the match in the 85th minute as Martinique’s Sebastien Cretinoir took down Canaleros midfielder Jairo Jimenez in the box with a clumsy challenge. Torres stepped up to the spot and barely scored his penalty kick past the dive of Vermignon to earn the three points.
What did you think of Thursday’s Group A matches? Do you believe Mexico has righted their ship? Do you see Panama making a deep run in the tournament?
Share your thoughts below.