Mexico and Honduras both bounced back from defeats at the weekend to nominally right their ships in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. It was never pretty, but El Tri boss Javier Aguirre notched his first victory in his second stint in charge with a nervy 2-1 result over current 'hexagonal' bottom side Trinidad and Tobago at the Azteca. Elsewhere, Honduras made relatively easy meat of El Salvador at home in San Pedro Sula with a 1-0 result that flattered the visitors.
The Mexicans started like a house on fire at their famous fortress in the capital. But after Guillermo Franco poked home from close range inside the first minute, the home side - currently in woeful form - lost the plot completely. Aguirre was forced to take off Nery Castillo midway through the first half when the player pulled up with a muscle strain, and just before the break, Trinidad - the bottom side in the final round of qualifying in North, Central America and the Caribbean - struck an equaliser. It was largely a self-inflicted wound as Andres Guardado gave possession away cheaply, but new man Hayden Tinto did brilliantly to hammer into the top corner from 20 yards out.
Aguirre most likely gave his side a thunderous team talk at the half. And whatever he said worked wonders as Oscar Rojas put the home side into the lead with a stunning 35-yard scorcher two minutes into the second period. Even that advantage failed to settle Mexican nerves as their inability to control the ball will have fans, coach and players concerned ahead of their next game with archrivals USA in September. The win sees the Mexicans up to fourth in the region's qualifying, but the nature of the performance will need to be addressed.
"I think we improved our performance from the last time out," said Castillo after the final whistle. "It's too bad we couldn't score more goals, but overall I am a happy man. We're not playing that badly and we won the game. That's all that matters, no matter what the journalists say."
Pavon power guides Catrachos
Honduras, who lost 2-1 to the United States only days ago despite carving out a 1-0 lead early, bounced back to earn a justified victory at home in San Pedro Sula over an El Salvador outfit fresh off a shock win over Mexico in their last fixture. The game failed to match the drama and suspense of the night's other tilt, but Honduras will be thankful for the three points that see them move up to third in the standings.
Carlos Pavon, the Catrachos' all-time top scorer and attacking hero, slammed home a screaming half-volley from close range in the 13th minute. It was the only goal the home side needed as they ran out 1-0 winners in a ferocious contest that produced four yellow cards and countless fouls.
Costa Rica and the United States had the night off, with the Americans participation in the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa forcing a change in the schedule. The next matchday in the region's final round will be on 12 August when second-place USA face Mexico at the Azteca, El Salvador travel to Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras square off with surprise table toppers Costa Rica in an all-Central American classic.