- El Tri edged T&T to go three points clear at the top of the Hex
- Clint Dempsey moved to within one goal of Landon Donovan’s USA goalscoring record
- CONCACAF Hexagonal Table
THE DAY REPLAYED – Mexico extended their lead at the top of CONCACAF’s final Hexagonal round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ with a dogged 1-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain.
Costa Rica and USA both earned draws away from home in Honduras and Panama respectively. FIFA.com takes a closer look at all the action from a night that showcased the competitive nature of the fifth and final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
*Match of the day *
Trinidad and Tobago 0-1 Mexico
Mexico put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack in CONCACAF with a resilient 1-0 victory at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Although they were defeated, T&T proved they will not be an easy side to win points against under new coach Dennis Lawrence. There were spells in the match that saw the Soca Warriors play Mexico at their own game, playing with a swagger in possession that is usually seen from the green and white at the Azteca.
However, *El Tri *ultimately showed their strength and when Hector Herrera struck the post with an excellent curling effort early in the second half, the warning signs were there for the Soca Warriors. Shortly after, Diego Reyes headed in the deciding goal in the 58th minute from a Miguel Layun corner kick. Mexico then did enough to see out the match and claim all three points, something no side in the Hex takes for granted when playing away from the comforts of home. Lawrence will be ruing the missed opportunity as his side’s next two qualifiers are especially tough ones—away to Costa Rica and away to USA—while Mexico has three home matches in a row to look forward to later this year.
Honduras and Costa Rica opened matchday four of the Hexagonal in sunny San Pedro Sula in a chippy and competitive contest. Emotions, along with the temperatures, ran high in a match defined by aggressiveness. Anthony Lozano bundled in Los Catrachos’ *goal in the 35th minute, but the second half saw Vancouver Whitecaps team-mates Christian Bolanos and Kendall Waston combine on a corner kick to draw Costa Rica level, and ultimately earn a valuable point for *Los Ticos.
The day’s finale took place in Panama City with *Los Canaleros *hosting the Stars and Stripes. Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey’s chemistry in attack showed through again in the first goal. Hershey, Pennsylvania’s Pulisic displayed a great deal of composure in the final third to dribble past Panama captain Felipe Baloy, and calmly find Dempsey making a run on top of the six-yard box. Dempsey guided in his 56th international goal for USA to move to within one of Landon Donovan’s all-time record for the Stars and Stripes. Bruce Arena’s side could only hold on to their lead for four minutes, however, as Panama struck back from a long throw-in. USA failed to make a clearance and Gabriel Gomez pounced on the second-ball the quickest, slamming a shot past Tim Howard to bring things level right before half-time. There was little to separate the sides in the second half. Howard’s point-blank save to deny Luis Tejada midway through the half was the stand-out moment.
1 – Since Bobby Wood’s goal in the 49th minute on 11 November 2016 in the opening matchday of the Hexagonal, Mexico have not conceded. Juan Carlos Osorio will be pleased with the centre-back partnership formed by Hector Moreno and Nestor Araujo.
Player of the day
Diego Reyes (MEX)
Not only did the 24-year-old do his primary job in containing Soca Warriors’ attackers Kenwyne Jones and Co, but he came up with the all-important winning goal. Reyes’ thumping header in the 58th minute was his first international goal for *El Tri. *His aerial ability gives Juan Carlos Osorio’s side another dimension and threat going forward as they seek to continue their strong start in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Did you know?
It has been a special World Cup qualifying period for Panama forward Luis Tejada. He celebrated his 100th appearance for the national team, alongside team-mate Felipe Baloy, earlier in the week and on Tuesday he celebrated his 35th birthday as he started up front for *Los Canaleros *as they earned a point to remain in third place in the Hex.
What they said
“We were in a dogfight. It’s tough. We’re always swimming upstream when we’re away from home. It’s a quick turnaround, although I thought we were fresh. This (Panama) is probably the most athletic team in CONCACAF. We’re looking forward now to June.” USA goalkeeper Tim Howard provides his assessment of the Stars and Stripes' hard-fought draw in Panama City.
*Results (Round Five, Matchday 4) *
*28 March *
Honduras 1-1 Costa Rica
Trinidad and Tobago 0-1 Mexico
Panama 1-1 USA
Up Next (Round Five, Matchday 5)
USA-Trinidad and Tobago