By DAN KARELL
Under the watchful eyes of Jose Manuel de la Torre, the fortress known as Estadio Azteca has lost its luster.
For the second time in 12 months, and first time since 2001 in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the Mexican National Team tasted defeat in their own backyard, falling to Honduras, 2-1, on a rainy and wet Friday night in Mexico City. Two goals in three minutes during the second half helped Los Catrachos leapfrog above El Tri in the Hexagonal standings, with Honduras sitting in third and Mexico dropping to fourth.
The defeat is doubly painful for El Tri supporters because of the way the side began the match. Using the same starting lineup from the 4-1 victory last month against the Ivory Coast, Mexico needed only six minutes to enter the scoresheet.
El Tri midfielder Giovani Dos Santos broke away from the Honduras defense and played a perfect square ball to his right to Oribe Peralta, who finished into an open goal. The goal was the first scored at Azteca in the calendar year during a World Cup qualifying match, and it brought a cathartic release of emotion from the supporters above.
Following the initial waves of attacks, Mexico stepped off the gas pedal a bit, which allowed Honduras to regain their composure. At the halftime break, Honduras manager Luis Fernando Suarez decided to replace Andy Najar with out-of-form New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengtson, and move which would prove dividends in the second stanza.
In the 64th minute of the match, Honduras forward Carlo Costly received the ball, spun, and shot a low strike that was parried by Mexico goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona. Unfortunately for Corona, his parry went straight to Bengtson, who timed his run to perfection and finished easily to level the scorelines.
Two minutes later, Costly ran onto a long ball and using a bit of strength and technique to head the bouncing ball into his path, powered past Mexican defender Diego Reyes and supplied a left-footed finish past Corona to give Los Catrachos a shock lead.
De la Torres brought in Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in the 69th minute to find another goal for El Tri, but the defensive work by Osman Chavez at the heart of the Honduras defensive line kept the hosts from finding the elusive game-tying goal this time.
With the defeat, Mexico have a record in the Hex of 1-5-1, and still no wins at Estadio Azteca.
What do you think of this defeat? Shocked that Mexico would lose at home? Surprised that Chicharito didn’t start? Do you see this motivating the team when they arrive in Columbus.