El Salvador battle but lose Group A decider to Mexico

El Salvador battled and battled but ultimately,  lost the Group A decider to Mexico. Luis Rodriguez gave El Tri the lead off a deflection in the first half as they held La Selecta without a shot on target. Hugo Perez’s men came out strong in the second half and came closest to scoring and equalizing but ultimately hit the post. Both teams now await the quarterfinals.

Team News

El Salvador make just one change, Alex Roldan gets a deserved first start over Bryan Tamacas. The rest of the team remains unchanged, Walmer Martinez – who scored last time against Trinidad & Tobago – is on the bench.

Mexico also with one change. Hector Moreno marshals the defense alongside Carlos Salcedo, he replaces Nestor Araujo. The rest of the team stays the same, as both managers stay light on rotation.

El Salvador Lineup (4-4-2): Mario Gonzalez; Alex Roldan, Alexander Larin, Ronald Gomez, Eriq Zavaleta; Jairo Henriquez, (C) Marvin Monterroza, Darwin Ceren, Narciso Orellana; Joshua Perez, Joaquin Rivas

Mexico Lineup (4-3-3): Alfredo Talavera; Jesus Gallardo, Carlos Salcedo, (C) Hector Moreno, Luis Rodríguez; Erick Gutierrez, Edson Alvarez, Hector Herrera; Jesus Corona, Orbelin Pineda, Funes Mori

First Half: Luis Rodriguez gives Mexico the lead

The pressing from El Salvador was apparent right from the opening whistle. But their aggressiveness landed Ceren in the referee’s book with a yellow card two minutes in. From that point on, Mexico was having their way building up plays on the wings.

Time after time El Tri created overloads on the wings that kept El Salvador off balance. Moreover, it led to crosses into the box or a one-on-one against a Salvadoran full-back. It’s what created the opening goal of the game courtesy of Luis Rodriguez. Hector Herrera sent the right-back on his way into a one-on-one matchup against his marker on the wing. Rodriguez cut onto his left foot, shot and his effort scored off a deflection.

The first half ended with Mexico holding a slim, one-goal advantage. Although on the pitch it was anything but slim, as Mexico controlled proceedings. They held La Selecta without a shot on goal and have camped inside their opponents’s half at times. Everything went according to plan for Gerardo Martino and his players. El Salvador have put up a fight but haven’t found their clinical edge yet.

Second Half: El Salvador battle but lose Group A decider to Mexico

No changes for either team to begin the second 45 minutes. Gonzalez was put to action early having to save a shot from Funes Mori that nearly doubled Mexico’s lead. El Salvador prepared their first change of the match, captain Marvin Monterroza off for Amando Moreno.

La Selecta had a golden opportunity to equalize by Rivas’ shot was blocked and the rebound was also denied. Mexico made their first substitution of the match with Jonathan Dos Santos entering for Erick Gutierrez. Both Gonzalez and Salcedo got yellow cards for fouls stopping El Salvador on the counter attack. From the ensuing bookings, Larin struck a sweet free-kick that smacked the post and eventually went out for a goal kick.

Walmer Martinez entered the match in place of Henriquez, while Alan Pulido entered for Mexico for Funes Mori in a like for like switch. Hector Herrera also got a yellow card for kicking the ball away to interrupt the flow of the game. He would eventually be replaced by Osvaldo Rodriguez, Pineda off for Erick Sanchez. Juan Portillo and Isaac Portillo would both come on for Joshua Perez and Darwin Ceren late on for El Salvador.

The full-time whistle blew and Mexico escape as Group A winners by the slimmest of margins.

Last Words on El Salvador vs Mexico

This game was a lot closer than some might’ve anticipated and that’s all credit to El Salvador. They were overwhelmed in the first half but adjusted and dominated most of the second half. They had ample chances to equalize but it simply wasn’t to be. However, that doesn’t take away how great they have played this tournament and how well they fought against the best team in the region. They gave Mexico all they could handle and then some. It’s a reminder that while the United States and Mexico are top dogs, other teams are definitely ready to cause and upset. A trip to the quarterfinals awaits La Selecta, where they’ll like their chances.

As for Mexico, winning was sort of expected. But they were stuck in neutral for so long that they allowed their opponents into the game. Once that happened they simply couldn’t wrestle momentum back. And yet, they didn’t need to and it speaks to how good El Tri is. They’ll be expected to go all the way as they are the defending champions. Mexico were expected to top Group A, and while the path to it wasn’t smooth, they got the job done.

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