Four second-half goals from Erick Gutierrez helped spare Mexico's blushes and in the end secure a resounding 5-1 win over Fiji in its second match of the Olympics in Salvador. The reigning gold medalist in men's football endured an opening half to forget. And it was heading for one of its worst ever results at any level when an error from goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera allowed the one Fiji player who operates outside of his home country at a professional level, Roy Krishna, to give the Pacific Island side a dream lead.
But, just as in its opening contest against South Korea when conceding seven goals in the second half, Fiji, competing in its first Olympics, couldn't maintain its resistance as the match wore on. Gutierrez started the goal glut just three minutes after the halftime interval when his deflected effort found the net from Carlos Cisneros's cross, although only after the ball came suspiciously close to going behind the byline.
From there, the match was always heading in Mexico's direction. Gutierrez, a rising midfielder with Pachuca, scored an 11-minute hat-trick to outshine his more illustrious club mate Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, who was ineffective and replaced at halftime. Gutierrrez again got a helping hand with his second goal, this time literally, when Fiji goalkeeper Simone Tamanisau only able to help the Mexican's lashed shot in off his near post.
Soon, Gutierrez got his third goal and Cisneros his second assist. The winger crossed low for Gutierrez to bundle the ball home in the middle in the 58th minute. Cisneros' contribution will certainly have been a boost to coach Raul Gutierrez after he was forced to give the Chivas man an early introduction following a worrying injury for another of the much-touted Pachuca prospects Rodolfo Pizarro.
Pizarro had scored in Mexico's opening 2-2 draw with Germany. And, while that performance had plenty of positives, having twice thrown away a lead it was vital that Mexico won and won convincingly so in its second match against the weakest team in the competition. Fiji, after all, had received a major slice of fortune in qualifying when its region's top dogs, New Zealand, was disqualified to fielding an overage player.
Eventually, Mexico did get the convincing win. Chivas defender Carlos Salcedo got Mexico's fourth when sliding in to just about get the ball over the line after Oribe Peralta flicked on a near-post corner. But it was left to Gutierrez to wrap up the scoring with the pick of the goals.
The 21-year-old raced onto a clever flick from Peralta and dinked the ball delightfully over Tamanisau and into the net. Mexico fell four goals short, though, of bettering South Korea's win and ensuring that a point against the Asian qualifiers in its final match on Wednesday would guarantee progress for the quarterfinals.
As it is, a point will still be sufficient should there be a winner between South Korea and Germany later on Sunday. Regardless, Mexico will have to put in far more compete performances as the competition wears on if it is to win back-to-back gold.