[Highlights Below]

In its first game since Copa America Centenario annihilation at the hands of Chile, Mexico averted further embarrassment by coming from behind to beat El Salvador 3-1 in San Salvador on Friday. For 45 minutes the predicament looked to only be worsening for coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who hung on to his job despite Mexico’s heaviest ever defeat at a major tournament. A foolish handball by Jorge Torres Nilo in the area allowed Alexander Larin to beat Guillermo Ochoa with a deft “Panenka” to give the host the lead in the Concacaf World Cup qualifier.

But, aided by a halftime tactical switch by the Colombian, Osorio got the desired reaction in the second half. And by the hour mark Mexico had turned the match on its head thanks to goals from Hector Moreno and debutant Angel Sepulveda. With 17 minutes remaining Raul Jimenez put some welcome daylight between the sides from from the penalty spot.

The consequences are severe for El Salvador, which has seen its outside hopes of making the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying dashed with a game still to spare. For Mexico, the result was of no such tangible importance.

Hector Moreno, Raul Jimenez Hector Moreno celebrates with Raul Jimenez after drawing Mexico level against El Salvador. Photo: Getty Images

El Tri went into the game already qualified for the Hexagonal after winning its first four qualifiers. But there was no doubt that events in the United States over the summer meant that Friday’s clash certainly mattered. In the team’s first outing since that infamous 7-0 loss, Osorio had made it clear that it was necessary to rebuild the faith of the Mexican public.

But after a bright opening, what he got in the first half was a performance that bore worrying hallmarks of the debacle against Chile. First came the moment of madness from Torres Nilo, raising his hand to a cross in the box and giving the referee the simple decision to point to the spot.

And after Larin converted the Mexican players appeared to lose all composure. Just as against Chile, El Tri was playing in a frantic manner and leaving massive gaps for its opponent to expose on the break. A better side than El Salvador, which has now taken just two points from its five matches sin the group, would surely have punished Osorio’s men further.

But to Osorio’s credit he got the positive response he was seeking after the halftime interval. The decision to bring on Jesus Duenas for Torres Nilo and switch to a 3-5-2 formation paid immediate dividends.

Seven minutes into the second half, the visiting team was level. Veteran Andres Guardado delivered a superb free-kick into the area and Moreno was left all alone to supply a stylish finish on the volley from six yards.

Five minutes later Mexico was in front. Sepulveda, a surprise call up to the squad, benefited from being moved alongside Jimenez at the interval to find space at the back post and head a fine cross from Hector Herrera into the back of the El Salvador net.

The Queretaro man had been handed his chance following injuries to Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Oribe Peralta and Jesus “Tecatio” Corona, along with a suspension that ruled out Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. And there well be some personal disappointment that he didn’t increase his tally. Two further chances came and went as he was denied by opposition goalkeeper Oscar Arroyo.

But Sepulveda was to have a hand in another goal, having been barged to the ground in the box by El Salvador defender Roberto Dominguez, who had been fortunate to stay on the pitch in the first half following a dreadful challenge on Javier Aquino. Jimenez didn't quite match Larin with a full "Panenka," but his penalty was confident enough to secure Mexico a win and to start the rebuilding process after its Chilean nightmare.