Mexico didn't get off to the hot start that they may have wanted, but they gutted out a 2-0 victory over El Salvador in Tuesday's CONCACAF semifinal qualifying stage.
Mexico remains unbeaten in CONCACAF play.
The Mexicans notched their first goal in the 63rd minute as Oribe Peralta hit a shot after the keeper rejected one from Ángel Reyna. "El Cepillo"'s goal turned out being the difference in a match that was tight on the scoreline but not on the pitch.
It was a home game at Estadio TSM Corona, but the Mexicans didn't make it easy on their fans early on as they struggled to score.
Javier Hernandez, or "Chicharito" as he's affectionately known in the soccer world, spent the first half on the bench. But he came in during the 60th minute and had an impact on the game late when both teams were wearing down. His goal in the 84th minute sealed the deal.
After one half of play, both teams entered the locker room at a 0-0 stalemate. The Mexican team looked sluggish and lifeless, as they were unable to generate many scoring chances.
Even through their struggles, there was no doubt who the better team on the pitch was. El Tri dominated El Salvador from the opening kickoff, and the inevitable was that Mexico would cruise to victory.
El Salvador made it much harder for the Mexicans than they may have anticipated, but the better team prevailed.
It was a scary moment in the first half when Valencia fielder Andres Guardado took a foot to the face and began bleeding. However, Guardado would stay in the game until the 67th minute and remain a presence on the attack.
Let's take a look at the highlights and key player grades for this matchup.
Mexico's first goal came in the 64th minute, when Peralta scored off a rebound from Reyna.
It didn't take long for Chicharito to make his impact on the game, as he scored in the 84th minute.
Grades for Key Players
Oribe Peralta: B+
Peralta's goal ended up being the difference in this match, and for that he gets a decent grade for Tuesday night's match.
His fingerprints weren't over the game as much as some of his teammates', but he executed and gave the Mexicans the goal that they desperately needed to gain victory.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez: B+
Chicharito didn't come in until the 60th minute, but he had an impact on the game in those final 30 minutes.
His 84th-minute goal put the Mexicans up by two goals and all but solidified the victory.
He replaced Aldo de Negris, who was running wild on the pitch in the first half but couldn't notch a goal.
Hernandez was pushing throughout his time on the pitch, and it seemed that the Mexicans were aiming to run the offense through him. It worked.
Angel Reyna: B-
Mexican striker Angel Reyna was one of the cogs of this Mexican attack on Tuesday night, and he was arguably the most active player on the pitch.
Reyna wasn't able to notch a goal, but he had many magnificent chances and set up many great chances as well.
El Salvador's defenders had their hands full with Reyna all night, and he wore them down.
Dagoberto Portillo: A-
The El Salvador goalkeeper was in top form despite his team's loss.
Dagoberto Portillo, the 32-year-old goalkeeper and one of the leaders of this El Salvador team, bailed his team out consecutive times, and this game would easily be 5-0 if he wasn't playing at a top level.
One of his saves was a magnificent diving save from a shot by Angel Reyna, which left Portillo shaken up afterward. Even as it became apparent that his team was out of contention for the match, he still made save after save.
El Salvador can take pride in knowing that they fought hard, and this game could've been much more lopsided than it was. Much of that is thanks to Portillo's performance.
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