THE DAY REPLAYED – Mexico sprang to the top of CONCACAF’s final Hexagonal round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ with an impressive win over Costa Rica at the Estadio Azteca.
Trinidad and Tobago and USA joined El Tri in an upward trajectory with a pair of much-needed victories to earn their first points of the round. FIFA.com takes a closer look at all the action from a spicy Friday night in the CONCACAF zone.
Match of the day
Mexico 2-0 Costa Rica
Mexico moved to the top of the table with a comprehensive 2-0 win over a tough Costa Rica outfit that started the day in first place. Javier Chicharito Hernandez opened the scoring early with a brave chip over the onrushing Keylor Navas to send the crowd at the Azteca into hysterics.
Nestor Araujo then made it 2-0 just before the half with a powerful header that barely snuck over the line. With a host of influential players out through injury, including Jesus Tecatito Corona and Andres Guardado, Juan Carlos Osorio’s Mexicans never missed a beat and cruised through the second half to seal the win and a clean sheet.
USA gave Bruce Arena the perfect start to his second term as coach with a demolition of Honduras in Northern California. Sebastian Lletget opened the scoring with a tap-in to an open goal early on. Captain Michael Bradley doubled the lead near the half-hour mark as the Americans were in an attacking mood.
By the time Clint Dempsey, back in action after a year out with an irregular heartbeat, slammed home the first of his three goals on the night, the game was well and truly beyond the Hondurans. It was no surprise that the contest finished 6-0 to the resurgent Stars and Stripes, who are still tied for last-place, but have reason for serious optimism.
Trinidad and Tobago earned their first points of the round with a 1-0 win over Panama at home in Port of Spain. Kevin Molino made the difference on the night, his 37th-minute right-footer from 25 yards squirreling past Jaime Penedo in the Panamanian net to see the lone remaining Caribbean side with reason for confidence of their own.
46 – The number of international goals scored by Mexican marksman Javier Chicharito Hernandez. His elegant chip in the win over Costa Rica saw him become El Tri’s joint all-time top-scorer.
Player of the day
Christian Pulisic (USA)
Three assists and a goal in a 6-0 win -- not a bad night’s work for an 18-year-old kid. Pulisic is wasting no time making his mark on the US national team. The Borussia Dortmund phenom injected dynamism into Bruce Arena’s attack-minded line-up and had a hand in virtually every meaningful attack. His goal ten seconds into the second half deflated the weary Hondurans and seemed to signal the start of a new era in American soccer.
Did you know?
New coach Dennis Lawrence knows what it takes to get a Trinidad and Tobago team to the World Cup finals. He scored the winning goal in an intercontinental play-off with Bahrain in 2005 to see the Soca Warriors into their first and only world finals (Germany 2006). Fans of the colourful and athletic islanders will be hoping the former captain, in his first head-coaching gig, can do the same from the touchline.
What they said
“Congratulations Chicharito! When will you score another and break my record? I’m sure you’ll get 20 more at least.” Mexican legend Jared Borgetti, known as the Desert Fox in his playing days, was gracious about Chicharito drawing level with him as El Tri’s all-time top-scorer.
Results (Round Five, Matchday 3)
Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 Panama
Mexico 2-0 Costa Rica
USA 6-0 Honduras
Up Next (Round Five, Matchday 4)
Trinidad and Tobago-Mexico
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) March 25, 2017