Soccer: Mexico down All Whites

By Michael Burgess at the Azteca Stadium

Mexico 5 All Whites 1
In time, this may come to be known as the Massacre at the Azteca. The All Whites didn't roll over and die - there were courageous efforts, especially from the back three - but the New Zealand side was thoroughly outclassed by a rampant home side in front of 105,000 spectators.

It didn't help that the All Whites conceded two relatively soft goals in the latter stages of the first half, which released any pressure on the home side, just as it was starting to slightly build.

At that stage the crowd burst into a passionate rendition of "Cielito Lindo", which is a Mexican song used to farewell. It felt like goodbye All Whites.

Mexico had looked dangerous from the start. From the kickoff the All Whites were content to sit back in their own half, letting the home side come to them.

For a while it looked like it was going to work. The Mexicans had plenty of space and time, but Ivan Vicelich, Andrew Durante and Tommy Smith coped with most threats as they got closer to goal.

There were chances - but the New Zealand defenders kept getting a foot in when it mattered, while the Mexican passes went astray at the final moment.

Improbably as it sounds, some pressure was starting to build on the home side. The 105,000 fans had expected an early goal - and it didn't come. They were restless - especially when it looked like a Mexican attempt had crossed the line, but was punched away by Glen Moss.

"Es Siempre asi," shouted one fan, "Es el destino Mexico." (It's always like this. It's our destiny). The shouts of "Ole, Ole" every time the home side completed a pass, which had been so prevalent in the first half, began to die down. The Mexican team was still almost totally dominating possession, but began to try shots from further out.

After all the valiant defending, the pressure was released in the 30th minute with a relatively soft goal. After Glen Moss made an ineffective punch of a dangerous Mexico cross - he probably should have caught it - and the ball pin balled around the New Zealand penalty area before Paul Aguilar lashed home from short range.

If that was disappointing, the second goal in the 40th minute was one of the worst - given the circumstances, context and situation - conceded by the All Whites in recent years.

After all the talk after the All White's advantage at set pieces, the visitors were caught out by a simple Mexican corner, when Raul Jimenez nodding in from close range after the defence failed to clear the first ball.

The second half started in the worst possible way, with Mexico breaking from deep on the left, drawing the defence and allowing Oribe Peralta to slot home.

Herbert replaced surprise selection Jeremy Christie - who had a forgettable match - soon afterwards with Chris James. At 3-0 El Tri were content to sit back, allowing the All Whites space and time on the ball.

They made some inroads - Chris Wood lifted a shot just over the bar and then just failed to reach a clever Kosta Barbarouses through ball - without creating a clear cut chance.

Both coaches then cleared their benches, with Herbert injecting Marco Rojas and Rory Fallon midway through the second half.

Rojas had an immediate impact. He created space in midfield with his close control, and beat two defenders in one jinking run into the area.

With more than 15 minutes to go, the crowd was singing "Vamos a El Mundial" (We are going to the World Cup) and Peralta's second confirmed that view, if there was any doubt.

James grabbed a consolation in the 85th minute, reacting to a loose ball in the Mexican penalty area to poke home.

"It was always going to be tough for us and we made it tough for ourselves in certain areas," said Herbert.

"We pride ourselves in certainly defending better than we did tonight and that was always going to be costly against a very good side."

Herbert said the side did well to soak up a lot of the pressure in the opening period of the game but the performance suffered in an unexpected area.

"We'd gone 30 minutes and weathered a pretty strong storm we thought we'd have.

"The defending off crosses, allowing players free in the box at crucial times; we've always been incredibly strong in that area. That's more disappointing for me tonight, the way we conceded the goals."

"We have a responsibility to return home and give it our best shot. We've got a sold out stadium in Wellington and it's our duty to turn up and make that as close as we can.

"It won't be over until the 90 minutes in Wellington and we'll be incredibly positive in what we do."

Mexico 5 (O.Peralta 2, R. Jimenez, P. Aguilar, R.Marquez)
New Zealand 1 (C.James)

- NZ Herald

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