By Staff Writer
A second half strike from Oribe Peralta was enough to see Mexico defeat Panama at Chicago’s Toyota Park on Tuesday. The 1-0 win was El Tri’s final warm-up match before meeting the USA in Columbus next month for an important World Cup qualifier.
Giovani Dos Santos made his second start in a row since returning to the national team for the first time in over a year, and provided the assist for Peralta’s goal.
Panama have won only one of their last five games but nonetheless started the match with confidence. Despite Mexico predictably dominating possession, as they had against New Zealand, it was Panama who had the first clear-cut chance of the match.
After being awarded a free kick in the 11th minute from 30 yards out Fidel Escobar found a way through the wall with his low driven effort, only to see it go wide of the target.
Panama had another opportunity just before the half hour mark when Josiel Nunez drew a foul and they are awarded another free kick. However, Joel Barcenas sent his effort sailing far over everyone’s heads.
It wasn’t until the final stages of the first half that Mexico was able to convert their possession into any kind of meaningful threat.
With less than five minutes on the clock, Giovani Dos Santos broke down the wing and crossed the ball into the danger zone. However, no one was able to get on the end of the Galaxy man’s ball.
A couple minutes later it was Dos Santos who found himself in the box where he connected with a well-placed cross from Isaac Brizuela only for Panama keeper Jose Calderon to make the save from point blank range.
Mexico started the second half with substitutions, introducing Hirving “Chucky” Lozano for Brizuela and Jesus Duenas for Jordan Silva.
Panama also made a switch, bringing on Abdiel Arroyo for Jose Gonzalez. The Panamanians also came close to opening the scoring just five minutes into the second period when a bad clearance from Mexico keeper Moises Munoz gifted an opportunity to Joel Barcenas. But the midfielder who plays his club football in Croatia couldn’t connect properly and whiffed his shot off target.
Dos Santos picked up the second half where he’d left off in the first, stamping the game with his influence by making incisive runs and putting in dangerous crosses.
When the goal finally came in the 59th minute, it was inevitable that the LA Galaxy man would be involved. Mexico scored on a sweeping move that saw Lozano play the ball out wide for Gio who squared it for Peralta. Peralta, who has four goals in seven appearances for Club American this season, finished neatly with a right-footed shot from the center of the box to make it 1-0.
Lozano, who’d made an impact against New Zealand, also had an influence off the game coming in off the bench. The Pachuca winger nearly doubled Mexico’s advantage in the 73rd minute when he took off on a mazy run downfield and dribbled his way through a cloud of defenders before losing a shot that sailed harmlessly over, despite having an open Dos Santos and Peralta available nearby.
The goal, which came just on the hour mark, seemed to break Panama’s spirits, although the Canal Men did manage to conjure up a couple of opportunities late on.
With just five minutes remaining on the clock, Panama were awarded a free kick from a dangerous position. However, Cooper sent his curling effort too wide to trouble the Mexico defense.
Cooper would be involved again as in the final minute of the match; the Toronto FC man forced a save out of Munoz with a point blank effort.
After some late match contentiousness that saw players from the bench coming to separate those on the field, the match finished 1-0 to Mexico.
On the one hand, as it was against New Zealand, this was a match in which it took a while for Mexico to get their game going. But by the same token, this made it two matches in a row where El Tri have not gotten off to the best of starts but still managed to pull off a win against determined opposition.