Chicharito’s tears and the relief of the players showed just how important last night’s win in the Estadio Azteca was. Another other than a win against Panama would have probably ended any hopes of going to Brazil 2014 but Raul Jimenez’s spectacular late strike ensured victory and allowed Mexico to steal the 5th place playoff position.
On a nervy night in Mexico with so much at stake the initial signs under new boss, Victor Manuel Vucetich are good. El Tri were dominant in the first half, bossing possession and actually posing more of a threat, something which had been seriously lacking under De la Torre.
Vucetich made some big calls with the return of Rafa Marquez, who was handed the captain’s armband, and his experience on a night like this was crucial. Goalkeeper, Guillermo Ochoa also returned and Vucetich also kept faith with Chicharito Hernandez, despite his lack of playing time.
After several missed opportunities in the first half, the strike pair of Hernandez and Peralta finally paid off. 5 minutes before the break, Hernandez flicked the ball to Peralta and the Santos Laguna striker smashed El Tri into a deserved lead.
Perhaps inevitably with nerves creeping in and Panama upping their game with qualification on the line, the second half was a more tense affair. However, Mexico had a chance to ease those fears in the 58th minute when Harold Cummings brought down Javier Aquino in the box. Javier Hernandez stepped up but his effort lacked any real conviction and was saved.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, things got a lot worse for El Tri when a defensive lapse allowed Luis Tejada to skip round Ochoa and level the match.
The game was heading for yet another unhelpful draw but young, Raul Jimenez produced the type of finish that a striker dreams of. Playing in his home stadium, the America front man controlled the ball on the edge of the box and unleashed an unstoppable overhead kick to give Mexico the win and an unforgettable ending to a game.
El Tri are now sitting in the fifth placed playoff position ahead of Tuesday’s match with Costa Rica. There is now a renewed sense of optimism within the camp and Vucetich must now decide if saviour Raul Jimenez comes into the starting lineup.