By Paul Nicholson in Glendale, Arizona
June 29 – Mexico majestically swept into the knockout rounds with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Haiti.
This match was a billed as a repeat of the 2019 Gold Cup semi-final classic that saw Mexico squeeze past Haiti with a goal in extra time.
It equally could have been billed as Beauty and the Beast. Mexico’s rediscovered fast paced possession game against Haiti’s more pragmatic physical approach.
Mexican coach Jaime Lozano stuck with the same starting XI that dismantled Honduras 4-0 in the opening match. Haiti’s Gabriel Calderon started without inspirational captain Derrick Etienne Jr.
The game started fast with Carlens Arcus overlapping on the right hammering the ball against the side netting. But Mexico should have been ahead in the fourth minute. A free kick into the box was spilled low down by Alexandre Pierre in the Haiti goal, falling to Edson Alvarez three metres out who could only hit the post.
Mexico began to dominate and looked especially dangerous on the right with Uriel Antuna, Jorge Sanchez and Erick Sanchez stretching Haiti’s two banks of four defenders.
Haiti’s best chance came when Alvarez gave the ball away to Wilde-donald Gierrier who could only hit the ball low into the body of Guillermo Ochoa.
Two minutes later Jorge Sanchez found himself in the Haiti box and should have made more of a shot he blasted over. Mexico’s best chance of the half fell to Henry Martin, LigaMX’s top scorer. Receiving the ball from a deflection in the centre of goal he lamely hit the ball into Pierre diving low to his right.
In the second minute after the break, Martin broke his fast.
A sweeping move down the right saw the Antuna curl a beautifully weighted ball into the path of Martin who headed down and in – 1-0.
Within 10 minutes Mexico had their second, this time from a sweeping move down the left. Jesus Gallardo countered the length of the field and struck the ball across the face of the goal that was turned into his own goal by a sliding Ricardo Ade – 2-0.
Haiti are the comeback kings and with Etienne subbed into the game started to look more threatening. On 71 minutes they pulled a goal back. An Etienne corner found the head of Denley Jean who nodded the ball down past a static Ochoa.
Invigorated, Haiti stepped up the pace of the game but it was Antuna who ultimately took the game away from them. Bursting down the right on the counter attack he drove the ball across the box into the path of Feyenoord striker Santiago Gimenez who directed the ball in for 3-1.
Mexico are comfortably into the knockout rounds with just Qatar left to play in the group. Haiti have a winner takes all encounter with Honduras, assuming Mexico don’t slip up against Qatar.
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