Mexico defeated Chile 3-1 to give Gerardo Martino a win in his first game as coach of El Tri.
Raúl Jiménez, Héctor Moreno and “Chucky” Lozano scored second-half goals to lift El Tri to a 3-1 victory over world No. 13 Chile as the “Tata” Martino era got off to a winning start.
After a scoreless first half in which Chile had the better chances, El Tri came to life after the break. In minute 50, Mexico managed its first corner kick of the match and it resulted in a penalty for El Tri after Pablo Hernández yanked Carlos Salcedo to the ground right in front of the referee. Jiménez converted the penalty sending the goalie the wrong way with a well-taken kick.
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Two minutes later, Mexico created a 4-on-3 breakout as captain Andrés Guardado dribbled through midfield with options on either side. Instead of passing wide and creating space for Jiménez who was running into the box, Guardado let fly from 23 meters and missed the target.
Less than 10 minutes later, Mexico earned its 4th corner of the half and defender Héctor Moreno beat his marker to the ball outside the goalie box and redirected the cross over the goalie and inside the far post to make it 2-0 in minute 64. Shortly after the restart, Rodolfo Pizarro intercepted an errant outlet pass and filtered a lead pass into the box for Chucky Lozano who chipped the ball over the onrushing goalie, Gabriel Arias.
Mexico very nearly made it 4-0 on another breakout, this one led by Lozano, but Chile veteran Arturo Vidal chased back and blocked the cross that was headed toward Jiménez who was alone at the back post.
Chile’s Nico Castillo narrowed the gap in minute 69 as the South Americans began to intensify ball pressure. Guardado tried to bring down a high ball outside the box instead of heading it clear and Chile converted the turnover into a goal when Eugenio Mena squared a pass to Castillo and the América Aguilas striker fired it home from 10 meters.
El Tri seemed to have shifted into a prevent defense by this point and it worked against them. Mexico failed to sustain possession and got sloppy with their passing, allowing Chile to throw everything forward. Chile was finding space on the right flank as Mexico narrowed its defense, but La Roja never really got a good look at goal in the remaining 20 minutes.
“Tata” became the sixth straight Mexico coach to win his debut match (not counting interim coaches), following in the footsteps of Juan Carlos Osorio (3-0 over El Salvador), Miguel Herrera (4-2 over New Zealand), Víctor Manuel Vucetich (2-1 over Panama) and José Manuel de la Torre (2-0 over Bosnia). The win will take some pressure off the Argentine who took over the reins in January after leading Atlanta United to the MLS title in early December.
Mexico opened with an active 4-3-3, anchored in the middle by Guardado, Carlos Rodríguez and Edson Álvarez who pressed and chased, assisted by forwards Lozano, Jiménez and Pizarro. El Tri never allowed Chile to get comfortable with the ball but failed to produce any real scoring chances in the opening 45 minutes, despite enjoying 51% possession and completing 81% of their passes.
Goalie Guillermo Ochoa made a tremendous reflex save in minute 14 when Chile’s Vidal smoked a header from close range off a free kick. The Standard Liege (Belgium) keeper also came off his line well to cut off crosses, though he made one or two careless outlet passes, one of which almost led directly to a goal (Héctor Moreno played the hero, clearing the ball after Castillo had looped it over the out of position Ochoa).
Chile dominated the game’s final 20 minutes, but did not manage another shot on goal.
Odds and Ends: Mexico’s win was its first over Chile since the embarrassing 7-0 loss in the 2016 Copa America quarterfinals. … Nico Castillo also scored against Mexico last October when Chile defeated El Tri 1-0. … Mexico now has an 18-5-11 record against the South American squad. … The game was played in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. … El Tri travels north to San José where it will prepare for Tuesday’s international friendly against Paraguay in Levi Stadium. … Paraguay is #33 in the FIFA World Rankings, while El Tri is ranked #17.