Mexico vs Panama – Football Match Report – 2 February 2022
Mexico picked up three crucial points with a 1-0 victory over Panama in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on Wednesday as Raul Jimenez scored the decider from the penalty spot.
Mexico got off to a slow start due to midfield problems and numerous errant passes, complicating things for manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino and his side at the Estadio Azteca.
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Panama capitalized on Mexico’s lack of chemistry and pushed forward during the first half, creating a handful of dangerous chances against the home side. Nevertheless, the game remained scoreless after the half-time whistle.
Mexico hit the ground in the second half and scored quickly thanks to a Jimenez chance, but a 49th-minute VAR check correctly ruled it out. Replays showed Hirving Lozano’s cross coming from inches outside the baseline.
However, Lozano suffered a shoulder injury which took him off the pitch in the 66th minute. The Napoli player was taken out of the stadium by ambulance. Napoli and Mexico confirmed on Thursday that he had dislocated his shoulder, but did not reveal whether he would be missing time for the Italian club when he returns to Napoli.
Mexico’s fortunes began to turn after Martino made crucial substitutions following Lozano’s exit. Diego Lainez was brought in and immediately made an impact going forward. In the 69th minute, Julian Araujo and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona were also brought in as reinforcements.
Sorting forced Panama further into their own half and in the 78th minute Lainez managed to earn a penalty for Mexico. Jimenez stepped in from the spot and easily placed the ball past goalkeeper Luis Mejia.
With victory in hand, Mexico have now closed their recent international window with seven points from three CONCACAF qualifiers. In March, Sorting will end the octagon with matches against the United States, Honduras and El Salvador.
A place at Qatar 2022 has yet to be clinched, but it is now much more likely for the North American giants.
“Victory is welcome,” Martino said after the game. “It brings us closer to another World Cup.”
Recently under pressure after a disappointing four-point run in the previous four qualifiers, Martino can rest easier with the 1-0 result which significantly boosted Mexico’s chances of a World Cup invite.
“Tata is the leader of this group, he is the leader who will take us to Qatar,” Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa told TUDN after the final whistle.
Canada, who beat El Salvador later Wednesday, lead the standings by four points over second-placed USA, who are tied on points with Mexico but ahead on goal difference.
Panama, who head to March in fourth in the table, will face Honduras, the United States and Canada in their final three qualifiers.