Mexico is as good as through to the World Cup after thrashing New Zealand, 5-1, in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying play-off. El Tri completely overwhelmed the Kiwis, battering them all over the field and igniting an Estadio Azteca crowd that has had little to cheer about this year.
The tension in Mexico was clear as soon as the teams walked onto the pitch and were greeted by only tepid cheering. It was as if the crowd was holding its breath and that lasted for more than a half-hour as several looks at goal were turned away. Glen Moss made a nice save on Miguel Layun, while Maza Rodriguez hit the bar to keep El Tri from finding the net and the Azteca in panic.
But in the 32nd minute, Paul Aguilar finally set the Azteca alight when he pounced on a New Zealand error and slid the ball into an empty net for the opener. Moss came charging off his line to punch a cross, but he didn't get there and collided with his defender, leaving them both on the ground while Aguilar knocked the ball home. And with that, the floodgates opened.
Mexico doubled their lead eight minutes later when Carlos Pena found himself completely unmarked on a corner kick and knocked it down for Raul Jimenez to poke over the line. By then, New Zealand's only hope was an away goal, but by the time they got that, the tie was long gone.
Oribe Peralta started the second half by sliding in to meet Layun's low cross and slamming it into the open net before making it a brace with a wonderful header that left Moss no chance. By then, Mexico was 4-0 up and Rafa Marquez also wanted in on the action, nodding home a corner kick to make it five for El Tri.
New Zealand added a late goal, but it was too late. That's especially true with Chris Wood and Ivan Vicelich suspended after picking up yellow cards. The Kiwis may be heading back home for the second leg, but they are doing so as dead men walking. Mexico had shed their 2013 demons and are all but bound for Brazil.
Mexico: Munoz, Valenzuela, Marquez, Rodriguez, Aguilar, Medina, Montes (Sinha 59'), Pena (Escoboza 64'), Layun, Peralta (Molina 82'), Jimenez.
Goals: Aguilar 32', Jimenez 40', Peralta 48', Peralta 80', Marquez 84'.
New Zealand: Moss, Smith, Durante, Vicelich, Bertos, Christie (James 53'), McGlinchey, Lochhead, Brockie (Rojas 58'), Wood (Fallon 66'), Barbarouses.
Goals: James 85'