Mexico beats Panama 2-1 to revive WCup hopes
Mexico needed a spectacular Raul Jimenez goal in the 85th minute to beat Panama 2-1 on Friday and revive its hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.
“What a spectacular goal, really beautiful and above all very emotional,” Victor Manuel Vucetich said after his first match as Mexico’s coach.
The result moved Mexico into fourth place in CONCACAF qualifying, three points ahead of Panama and three points behind third-placed Honduras with one game to play.
The top three teams qualify automatically for the World Cup, while the fourth team faces an intercontinental playoff against New Zealand.
In the last round of games, Honduras is away to already-eliminated Jamaica and needs only a draw to secure a World Cup berth, while Mexico is away to Costa Rica and Panama hosts the United States. Both Costa Rica and the U.S. have already qualified for Brazil 2014.
“We haven’t accomplished anything,” Vucetich said. “We need to win the next match to get to the playoff.”
Mexico went ahead in the 40th minute through Oribe Peralta’s goal off a pass from Javier Hernandez, who missed a chance to double that lead from the penalty spot in the 58th.
Panama stunned the home crowd by equalizing in the 81st, as Luis Tejada beat goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa to a through pass, touched the ball around the keeper and put it into the empty net.
Then came the brilliant winner from Jimenez, who had only just been brought on as a substitute.
Standing near the top of the penalty area, he received a long pass from Fernando Arce with his back to goal, used his right foot to knock the ball about a dozen feet in the air and lashed in a powerful overhead kick than arrowed just inside the post and left Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo frozen to the spot.
″″My initial intention was to hit it low, but then I had to improvise going in the air,” Jimenez said. “It was a last- resort type of thing.”
Meanwhile in other CONCACAF qualifiers, Honduras guaranteed itself of at least a playoff spot by winning 1-0 at home against Costa Rica, with Jerry Bengtson scoring the sole goal in the 65th minute, and the U.S. won 2-0 at home against Jamaica, with Graham Zusi opening the scoring in the 77th and Jozy Altidore adding an insurance goal in the 81st.