Mexico held the upper hand throughout the first half of this match but failed to turn their dominance into goals.They were allowed to play from the back and through the midfield and for much of the half Honduras was pinned back in and around their penalty area.
With Torrado and Castro directing traffic and Guardado and Barrera posing threats on either flank the Honduran midfield was first stretched and then pushed back.
Jerry Bengtson operated as the “lonest” of lone-strikers for Honduras as the five man midfield of Mejía, Garcia, Thomas, Espinoza and Portillo struggled to stem the Mexican tide.
However, the failure of Mexico to score during the first 45 minutes seemed to offer Honduras hope and it was a much more assertive Honduran side that approached the second half.
The five man midfield became more recognizable as Hendry Thomas shielding the defence with a bank of the other four midfielders operating further up the park.
Ironically it was just after half time when Mexico made a change that would ultimately prove to be key to the outcome of the game but it was also the trigger for an extended period of Honduran dominance.
Aldo De Nigris came on to operate through the centre with Javier Hernandez and Guardado exited the match. What had previously looked like a 4-2-1-3 formation for Mexico changed to something more akin to a 4-2-2-2 with Barrera and Dos Santos supporting the new strike pairing of De Nigris and Hernandez.
While Barrera continued to offer width on the right the plan might have been to push Carlos Salcido further up the park. Unfortunately for Mexico coach Manuel del la Torre there was precious little time to put such a plan – if it was his plan – into motion.
Within three minutes of De Nigris entering the game Salcido had to go off and he was replaced by Torres. Honduras took advantage of the uncertainty caused by the two changes made by Mexico and for a 20 minute spell they looked the better side.
Espinoza asserted himself in the Honduras midfield and during that period he was the dominant player on the park. With Bengtson flagging Honduran coach Luis Suarez opted to bring on Carlos Costly in what amounted for a straight swap.
While Costly ability to hold the ball frustrated Mexico’s defenders Honduras lost something in the way of mobility when Bengtson left the game.
As full-time approached both sides went close. Dos Santos was clean through but failed to hit the target while Espinoza started off a move with a wonderful piece of control and athleticism and finished it with a cracking shot tipped over the crossbar.
With the game moving in extra time the team scoring first was going to own a huge advantage.
And in the end it was Honduras inability to deal with crosses that cost them. Of the five goals they would ultimately concede at this Gold Cup four have come from crosses and three of these from corner kicks.
While the Honduras defence appears more than competent in dealing with high balls down the park the same cannot be said when they are forced to operate on another plane.
Both of Mexico’s goals came from Barrera corner kicks and both also involved substitute Aldo De Nigris – aka Plan B.
The first De Nigris scored himself while the second he flicked on for Hernandez to bundle home. (Hernandez again showing his incredible sense of judgment and discipline in staying in an onside position).
Mexico won this match in open play because they had a cutting edge. It is something that Honduras lacks despite scoring seven goals against Grenada. Honduras will be a difficult team to breakdown during World Cup qualifying but the lack of a consistent goal threat will be a major concern.
Man of the Match
Aldo De Nigris (Mexico)
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