THE DAY REPLAYED – Honduras keep hold of top spot in the six-team CONCACAF Hexagonal standings after a come-from-behind draw against struggling Mexico in sweltering temperatures in San Pedro Sula. USA rebounded from their opening-day loss to win in wintry conditions against Costa Rica, while Jamaica let a lead slip away in their Kingston home debut, drawing 1-1 against plucky Panama. FIFA.com wraps up all the action from a frenetic Friday night in the New World.
The big game
*Honduras 2-2 Mexico
The Mexicans looked to be cruising to a simple win in Honduras when, suddenly, everything went wrong. Manchester United danger-man Javier *Chicharito Hernandez scored El Tri’s first goals of the Hexagonal with a pair of predatory strikes – one with his head and one with his foot – to build a firm 2-0 lead. After 76 minutes, however, the Hondurans, who beat USA last month, sprang to life. Carlo Costly rose like a salmon to head home a corner-kick before Jerry Bengtson hit home from the spot to draw level just three minutes later. Chicharito and strike partner Gio dos Santos could only watch on helplessly from the bench – both subbed out with muscle cramps on a hot and steamy afternoon – as their three points turned to one.
In other action
Far from the sweltering mid-day action in Honduras, the High Rockies of Colorado – venue for USA’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica – was a wintry mess. The game was played in blizzard conditions, and they suited the Americans who had a point to prove after heavy criticism in the press following the defeat in Honduras. Clint Dempsey opened the scoring after 16 minutes when he latched on to a deflected shot from Jozy Altidore to poke home into an open net. As snow continued to fall and pile up on the pitch, the referee stopped the game briefly in the 55th minute before allowing play to continue. It wasn’t the prettiest football match you’ll ever see, but it was one to remember for the gritty Americans and their hearty fans.
Jamaica were oozing sunshine and confidence in their first home game of the campaign, and they looked to be on their way to a first-ever win against Panama in qualifying when Marvin Elliott nodded home after 22 minutes. But a lapse in concentration allowed the Panamanians to grab an equaliser in the 65th minute through Luis Henriquez. The game ended at there at 1-1, a second straight draw for both sides.
Player of the day – Carlo Costly (Hon)
Honduras are brimming with young, rising stars, but it was an old head that came to the rescue against Mexico. Down a pair of goals with 15 minutes to play, journeyman striker Costly, currently with unfashionable Greek outfit Veria, had his say. He rose highest to head home at the back post from a corner-kick. Then, just three minutes later, the 30-year-old forward made an heroic run into the penalty area, forcing a foul from Maza Rodriguez that left the referee with no choice but to point to the spot. Costly’s hot three minutes will not soon be forgotten by Honduran – or Mexican – fans.
Goal of the day –Marvin Elliott (Jam) Jamaica 1-1 Panama, 22’
There was a party atmosphere at the National Stadium in Kingston, known by locals simply as The Office. But it wasn’t until the 22nd minute that the home faithful had something to cheer about. Elliott soared to prod home a thumping header, sparking off wild celebrations after a nervy start. All ten of his team-mates chased the England-born Bristol City man to the halfway line, but the party didn’t last long as the hometown* Reggae Boyz* had to settle for another draw.
The number 27 – The number of consecutive FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers in which the United States have scored. Clint Dempsey’s opportunistic goal, which brings his tally to a shared-best 12 all-time in qualifying for the Stars and Stripes, was enough for a slim win in bizarre snow-swept conditions.
What they said“We were able to get a goal early and that really helped us. It was difficult to see anything out there with all the snow up over your ankles, but we stayed together and we got the job done. Qualifying is always a roller-coaster, but we moved up in the standings with this win and hopefully we can go down to Mexico on Tuesday and shake things up,” USA captain and qualifying top-scorer Clint Dempsey on the snowy win over Costa Rica, a rough start to the Hexagonal, and the clasico with Mexico at Azteca early next week.
CONCACAF fourth round ‘Hexagonal,’ matchday two22 March 2013
Honduras 2–2 Mexico
Jamaica 1–1 Panama
USA 1-0 Costa Rica**
Up next*26 March 2013*Costa Rica – Jamaica
Mexico – USA
Panama – Honduras