Mexico crashed back to earth in San Antonio, losing in embarrassing fashion to Argentina.
Gerardo “Tata” Martino finally tasted defeat as coach of Mexico, coming up against an Argentine buzzsaw that took advantage of mistakes by a sloppy, lethargic El Tri.
Martino had been 10-1-0 since taking over Team Mexico in January, but all his good work appeared to go down the drain with Tuesday night’s disappointing 4-0 loss at the Alamodome Stadium.
Mexico opened with possession and patience, while Argentina sat back and waited. In minute 17, defender Nestor Araujo made a terrible pass and suddenly striker Lautaro Martinez was running at Araujo defensive partner Carlos Salcedo. He beat both of them and also eluded Edson Alvarez who had dropped back before firing past a lunging Guillermo Ochoa. Martinez was not done … not by a long shot.
It was a shock that came against the run of play though it appeared Mexico would settle down. But less than 5 minutes later, Martinez scored his second and Araujo was again a participant. Argentina made a quick move forward, but Martinez misplayed a trap only to have Araujo fail to clear. Martinez continued his run as Exequiel Palacios collected the loose ball. Araujo chose not to track Martinez and flubbed an offside trap allowing Martinez to get in alone on Ochoa and he easilt slotted home.
Mexico was down 2-0 and was noticeable shaken. El Tri had trouble sustaining possession and struggled to move through midfield. Only 10 minutes later, Argentina went up 3-0 and this time Salcedo was the culprit, getting called for a penalty for a handball. Leandro Pareded beat Ochoa from the spot.
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Six minutes later, Martinez had his hat trick, again exposing Araujo. This time, the Celta Vigo defender tried to knock the ball away from the Inter Milan striker, but only managed to nudge it right onto Martinez’s right foot. Lautaro powered it home and it was 4-0 in minute 39.
No doubt, defenders Salcedo and Araujo will want to forget this disastrous performance, especially coming as it did against a less-than-full-strength Argentina squad. But midfielders Edson Alvarez, Hector Herrera and Jona dos Santos were rather invisible in the first half, too.
The second half was mostly quiet though emotions peaked a few times after some heavy challenges from both teams. It was surprising that Martino stuck with Salcedo and Araujo the entire 90 minutes of the game. The defenders will get the brunt of the blame, but the entire team played poorly.
Mexico’s young wingers – Hirving Lozano and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona – were shut down. Corona had a few nice dribbles but did not produce a single service during his 63 minutes on the pitch, and Lozano was quiet until finally getting a shot off in minute 92 (Mexico’s only shot on goal!). Striker Raul Jimenez never could create space as Argentina held him in check.
Martino will have plenty to consider after this defeat but the film study will be ugly. Team Mexico will return to action in October when they open play in the Concacaf Nations League. El Tri will play Bermuda on Oct. 11 and Panama on Oct. 15.