Despite going down a goal to El Salvador early in the match, Mexico responded brilliantly with a trio of second-half goals to win 3-1. They earned their fifth win of the group stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying and maintained their perfect record in qualifying with just one match to go before the final Hex round begins.
The first half was, to put it mildly, a bad one for Mexico. They played with very little energy, their tactics were ineffective and repetitive, and they couldn’t cope with the physical play of El Salvador. While the hosts were at times a little rash with their challenges — several El Salvador players were lucky to not get booked in the first half and one was lucky he was only shown a yellow and not sent off — they kept Mexico completely off balance and out of sorts. They capitalized on that chaos with a completely unforced handball by Jorge Torres Nilo, waving his arm at a high cross in the box to give up a penalty. That was scored with ease by Alexander Larin, and El Salvador went into halftime easy and deserved leaders in the match.
The second half, however, was a very different story. Torres Nilo was subbed out during halftime after being easily Mexico’s worst player on the pitch even outside of that penalty, and they came out with much more energy and some aggression of their own -- energy and aggression that El Salvador couldn’t match.
El Tri quickly had their opponents pinned back, rampaging forward into the final third and creating dangerous chances left and right. It took just seven minutes of the second half for Mexico to take the lead, with Hector Moreno slamming the ball home to equalize, and five minutes later they had the lead thanks to an easily taken header from Angel Sepulveda.
From there, it was just a matter of grinding out the win, and Mexico certainly kept battering away at El Salvador until they just broke. A penalty for a rash challenge by Roberto Dominguez, hip-checking Sepulveda off the ball as he ran into the box, gave Mexico a 3-1 lead, securing the win with El Salvador limited to a handful of ineffective half-chances from there on out.
There’s no one player who can be pointed at as the cause of Mexico’s turnaround, with just an overall improvement of their level of play all over the pitch being the main driving force. Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado were particularly improved, though, and their ability to start dominating midfield definitely helped Mexico in the second half.
Regardless of who drove the result, though, it was good to see Mexico face adversity and come back from it. We’ve seen them dominate teams plenty of times since Juan Carlos Osorio became manager, but whenever they’ve had a setback under him they’ve never really recovered in-game until this match. While many are still critical of Osorio’s management, this could be a sign that he’s really getting his new team figured out, and could prove to make Mexico a power to be reckoned with in the Hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.