A 70th minute Edson Álvarez header was enough to settle a tense affair and all but send Mexico to Qatar, baring a huge goal difference swing. Pressure mounted with both Costa Rica and USA winning this evening, but in the end ‘La Tri’ had enough to get over the line.
Sitting third with remaining games against teams who have nothing to play for in Honduras and El Salvador, you would be forgiven for thinking Mexico were home and dry to make their eighth consecutive WC. Despite this, the overwhelming favourites looked nervy and devoid of ideas in the first half, heightened by a Costa Rica victory leaving them breathing down the Mexicans necks level on points.
Both sides were confined to long range efforts. First, it was Atlético Madrid man Héctor Herrera cutting in on his trademark left foot before dragging wide of Luis López’s left hand post. In similar vein in the opposition half Kevin López blazed over when finding himself acres of space on the left, evidencing the reason ‘Los Catrachos’ have only scored six goals in this entire qualification campaign.
In the absence of Gerardo Martino due to eye surgery, Mexico’s stand in boss would have been giving his players some home truths at HT given the importance of the game and it almost paid off immediately. Some neat and tidy interchanges around the edge of the box before the ball fell to Herrera who uncharacteristically missed the target again. Moments later with ‘El Tri’ knocking, Jesús Corona forced a fine save from López, tipping over from a fierce driving effort. For all their resolve, Honduras began to look weary and concentration told from a 70th minute corner. The outswinging ball from Herrera was met at the near post by Ajax man Álvarez which found its way across López and in before he could even blink.
Honduras are now without a win in the last sixteen in all competitions. Familiar surroundings in San Pedro hasn’t been of much use in qualification, being outscored 14-3 including only one draw. Mexico meanwhile have now won the last 3 H2H.