Mexico were forced to accept a third straight frustrating draw in the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying campaign as the United States held on for a battling 0-0 draw in the hostile atmosphere of the Estadio Azteca. As the final whistle blew, the Mexican side’s fury was clear as they surrounded the officials to protest the failure to award two strong penalty appeals during the encounter between the region’s two great rivals.
The match began to a familiar cauldron of noise surrounded by the steep banks of over 100,000 fans at the historic stadium in Mexico City, but as the home side struggled to break down an organized and concentrated U.S. side, the supporters were gradually silenced.
After beginning the Hexagonal with a defeat to Honduras, the U.S. are now firmly back on track to make it to Brazil next year having backed up their win over Costa Rica last Friday. Incredibly, before Tuesday, the U.S. had only once avoided defeat in Mexico in a World Cup qualifier-- back in 1997.
The U.S. now sits third in the Hexagonal, behind Panama and Costa Rica, on four points. However, it has been a hugely disappointing start for Mexico, who have just three points and lie fifth.
The encounter with the U.S. bore a worrying resemblance for Mexican fans to their opening 0-0 draw with Jamaica at the Azteca when El Tri also lacked the guile to break down a stubborn defense.
In the opening half, the best the home side could produce was a free header from a free-kick that midfielder Jesus Zavala failed to take advantage of as he tamely directed it toward Brad Guzan in the U.S. goal.
Javier Hernandez was largely kept quiet throughout the match by excellent performances by the inexperienced U.S. center-back duo of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. The best the Manchester United striker could muster was a near post header wide in the opening period.
But Hernandez was one of two Mexico players to go down in the box appealing vociferously for a penalty. Michael Bradley produced a clear two-handed push on Hernandez off the ball, but, despite the referee’s assistant waving his flag to signal that he saw an offense, play went on.
Mexico continued to toil with little effect after the break, as they failed to capitalize on the threats provided by wide men Javier Aquino and Andres Guardado.
It wasn’t until Angel Reyna came on late on and then veteran forward Omar Bravo gave them two men up front that Mexico began to apply serious pressure.
Guzan, secure throughout, crucially palmed an effort wide from Reyna in injury time, amid a stream of home corners in the closing minutes.
But Mexico and their now under pressure coach Jose Manuel de la Torre were left exasperated not only with their own failings but by those of the officials. With 14 minutes remaining, Maurice Edu went through the back of Aquino with a reckless challenge in the box, but again no call was given and the U.S. survived for a most welcome point.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.