By Staff Writer:
Nashville, TN – Giovani Dos Santos converted a first-half penalty kick to open the scoring for Mexico in what proved a 2-1 win over New Zealand at Nashville’s LP Field on Saturday.
Marcos Rojas equalized for the All-Whites at the start of the second half before Marco Fabian restored El Tri’s lead some 10 minutes later.
El Tri coach Juan Carlos Osorio deployed his team as a 3-4-3 with Oribe Peralta playing up top and Dos Santos just underneath him. New Zealand, boss Anthony Hudson lined his team up in a more defensive 5-2-3.
But the All-Whites started positively trying to high-press Mexico despite conceding the majority of possession. Hudson’s well marshaled five-man backline also did a good job of minimizing Mexico’s opportunities from open play, mostly limiting them to potshots from outside the box.
The game was barely five minutes old when Dos Santos took the first crack of the game, collecting the ball in midfield and making 30-yard charge before blasting the ball over the crossbar.
New Zealand defender Deklan Wynne conceded a corner a couple minutes later, with Dos Santos involved again, playing it short for Marco Fabian, whose lofted-in effort led to nothing.
Yet despite Mexico’s possession advantage, it would be a player named Marco on the other team who would create the game’s first real scoring opportunity.
It was just past the 15th minute when Marco Rojas, known in New Zealand as the “Kiwi Messi,” picked up the ball on the halfway line, danced his way through a pack of Mexico defenders and forced the first save of the match from Mexico keeper Jose’ Corona.
Hirving “Chucky” Lozano wasted another chance for Mexico a few minutes later, bringing the ball down elegantly from the edge of the six yard box only to blast his effort well over the crossbar.
The game finally broke for Mexico just before the half hour mark when Lozano made a run down right flank, played a one-two with Peralta and careened into Deklan Wynne as he burst into the box. Mexico were awarded a penalty on what looked a soft call at first, despite replays suggesting their had been sufficient contact.
Dos Santos stepped up and coolly sent All-Whites keeper Stefan Marinovic the wrong way to net his 15th international goal and make it 1-0 in the 29th minute.
New Zealand looked to have equalized just two minutes later when Kosta Barbarouses put the ball in the back of the Mexico net. However, the whistle was blown and replays showed that the Wellington Phoenix man was indeed offside.
As half time came, New Zealand had a right to feel hard done by going into the break trailing 1-0 to a Mexico side that failed to register a single shot on goal from open play.
It took exactly one minute after play resumed for the New Zealanders to finally get the goal they deserved. In a move that cut through Mexico’s midfield like a hot knife through butter, Wynne marauded down the flank and squared the ball for a charging Rojas who made no mistake in slotting it past a diving Corona for the equalizer.
But parity was to be short-lived for the All-Whites as just 10 minutes later Mexico went ahead again.
Jesus Gallardo laid the ball on for Peralta who cut it back for Fabian who then blasted a low shot past Marinovic for what proved the game-winner.
As the match ticked past the hour mark, both coaches made a number of subs with New Zealand bringing on Monty Patterson for Barbarouses, Kip Colvey on for Wynne, Moses Dyer for Clayton Lewis, Rory Fallon for Liam Graham and Rojas for Matthew Ridenton.
Mexico took Gallardo off for Isaac Brizuela, Peralta off for Alan Pulido, Fabian off for Orbelin Pineda.
But despite shuffling the deck with his lineup, there was a sense of Hudson’s All-Whites running out of steam as the match ticked into the final 15 minutes. The hard-pressing, all-running style they’d started with proved difficult to maintain as Mexico’s superior quality on the ball began to tell.
Although it wasn’t just New Zealand who faded as the match wore on.
Dos Santos, who’d been so influential in the first half, also disappeared in the latter stages of the game. But despite that, El Tri fans will be pleased the LA Galaxy man managed to get on the scoresheet and register a win in his first appearance with the national team for well over a year.