Mexico vs. Panama: Final score 2-1, Raul Jimenez becomes a hero

Mike Zarrilli

Panama thought they had embarrassed Mexico yet again and stolen a point at the Azteca. Then, Raul Jimenez struck.

Mexico looked to be on their way to two disastrous dropped points at Azteca on Friday night until Raul Jimenez scored the goal of his life. With the match against Panama tied, Jimenez came on as a substitute and scored a stellar bicycle kick minutes later to fire El Tri to a 2-1 victory.

While El Tri had all of the early possession, they struggled to create good chances early on and looked quite a bit like 'Chepo' Jose Manuel de la Torre's El Tri. However, unlike Chepo's side, they remained patient, waiting for openings, and didn't get frustrated. Eventually, their patience was rewarded with a chance for Oribe Peralta, which he finished in the 40th minute.

Giovani dos Santos started the move with a ball into the box for Javier Hernandez, who may have been a toe offside when the pass was played in. The flag stayed down and he chipped the ball towards the back post, where Peralta was waiting. He settled the ball with his first touch, then struck a powerful half-volley past Jaime Penedo to send Mexico into halftime up, 1-0.

Mexico should have doubled their lead in the 56th minute, but Chicharito missed from the spot after Javier Aquino drew a penalty. Harold Cummings was the offender with a shove in the back on the Villarreal winger. The penalty looked to be a bit soft, but Cummings made contact with Aquino's back without a doubt and only had himself to blame. He was let off the hook when Hernandez took a weak penalty down the middle that Penedo stopped easily.

Panama made a major tactical shift in the 68th minute, bringing on Luis Tejada for Anibal Sanchez as they shifted into a two-striker formation. Eventually, that helped to lead to Panama's stunning equalizer. Gabriel Torres -- who came on for Blas Perez in a like-for-like change -- set up the goal in the 81st minute with a through ball to Tejada. Rafa Marquez had stepped up too far on Torres and was caught ball-watching on the pass through to Tejada, who finished from close range to stun El Tri.

It appeared that El Tri were headed for yet another embarrassing result at home until the 85th minute, when a couple of substitutes combined for what will become a truly legendary winner if Mexico go on to qualify for the World Cup. Fernando Arce was credited with the assist, but all the attention will be given to the finish by Club America's young star, Jimenez. From around the penalty spot, he wound up for a bicycle kick and directed a perfect overhead shot off the inside of the far post to send the Azteca into raptures.

Despite Panama's efforts, El Tri held on for three well-needed points. They head into the final game of qualifying with a chance to seal an automatic place and in an excellent position to finish in the playoff spot, thanks to Jimenez's unbelievable finish.

Mexico: Ochoa, Torres Nilo, Marquez, Ayala, Layun, Aquino (Gimenez 65'), Zavala, Peña, dos Santos (Arce 77'), Peralta (Gimenez 86'), Hernandez

Goals: Peralta (40'), Hernandez (penalty miss 56'), Jimenez (85')

Panama: Penedo, Cummings, Torres, Baloy, L. Henriquez, Gomez (Tejada 68'), A. Henriquez, Quintero, Sanchez (Jimenez 75'), Godoy, Perez (Torres 79')

Goals: Tejada (81')

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