Mexico secured their first win in the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying courtesy of a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Jamaica in Kingston on Thursday. Aldo de Nigris’s header early in the second half was enough to take El Tri onto six points and actually, temporarily at least, top the Hexagonal.
For Jose Manuel de la Torre, he got the result that he badly needed and after a poor first half there were some more encouraging signs in terms of his side’s performance in the second half. Yet, there would have been concern that Mexico missed several chances to kill off the game and Jamaica, and Marvin Elliott in particular, will be left to regret a couple of clear opportunities for an equalizer that went begging. The result leaves Theodore Whitmore’s side remain bottom of the standings with the United States to visit on Friday.
After beginning their Hexagonal campaign with three straight draws, Mexico had shown signs of playing to their undoubted potential in a 2-2 draw against Nigeria in a friendly last Friday. But in the first half, their play resembled the hugely uninspiring goalless home draw against Jamaica that got their final round of qualifying off to such a poor start.
Lacking tempo and fluidity, the best the visitors could create in the first 45 minutes was a tame header by De Nigris and a shot from distance from Javier Hernandez that Donovan Ricketts in the Jamaica goal just palmed past the post. One of the positives of the performance against Nigeria had been Carlos Salcido’s switch to left-back and his good link-up play going forward with Andres Guardado. Although only in glimpses, it was that flank that provided El Tri’s best hope of a breakthrough.
Jamaica were largely happy to limit their opponents endeavors and committed little in the attacking third. Yet even with isolated bursts forward they did threaten and bustling runs from O’Brian Woodbine and Gareth McCleary right before the interval caused some concern in the Mexican backline.
But three minutes after the break, Mexico grabbed a goal their play to that point barely deserved and there was little surprise in the source. Salcido’s inviting cross onto the edge of the six-yard box found De Nigris criminally completely unmarked and the angular striker made no mistake with a thumping header past Ricketts.
Within a matter of minutes of getting the vital breakthrough, Mexico’s goal came under severe pressure for the first time on the night. Indeed, it took a fine reaction save from Jose Corona, justifying his selection ahead of Guillermo Ochoa, at his near post to deny a close-range header from Elliott. The Bristol City midfielder would have just as good a chance to pull his side level as the match entered the final 20 minutes, but this time he made poor contact with his head from eight yards out.
Although, Hernandez had earlier tested Ricketts with a low shot across goal from the right of the box, at that point it was looking as though Mexico could be in for a nervy climax to the match. But with Giovani Dos Santos on and starting to find space between the lines, the visitors were able to temporarily regain their control and were looking the side more likely to get another goal.
Indeed, there was far more encouragement to be found in sections of Mexico’s second-half performance. Guardado fired over when he really should have scored, while Hernandez saw another effort blocked by Ricketts after turning back inside a defender at the back post onto his left foot.
There was more anxiety for El Tri in the final moments, courtesy of further unsettling aerial balls into their box, but Mexico were not the side left to rue their missed chances as they grabbed a vital win. De la Torre will now hope that his side’s performances continue to improve when they visit Panama on Friday before hosting Costa Rica in a week’s time.