Chaotic Mexico scrape through

Ten-man Mexico scraped into the World Cup second round on Wednesday despite a chaotic 2-1 loss to a second-string Portugal.

Mexico gave away a penalty, missed another and had a man sent off with 30 minutes left, but squeaked through when Group D rivals Angola were pegged back 1-1 by Iran.

Portugal, already qualified after wins against Angola and Iran, rested five first-team players as a precaution against them picking up a second yellow card.

Mexico needed only a draw to guarantee second place in Group D but they went 2-0 down early in the first half through Maniche and a Simao penalty.

However, they hit back through Jose Fonseca and appeared in the ascendancy before Omar Bravo’s penalty horror show and Luiz Perez’s dismissal soon after.

Bravo, scorer of two goals in the opening 3-1 win over Iran, had the chance to secure qualification when Miguel was penalised for handball 10 minutes after half-time.

But with the pressure on, Bravo’s nerve failed him and he blasted his kick over the bar.

Worse was to come when Luiz Perez, booked for diving in the area, saw red for arguing with Slovakian referee Michel Lubos.

Mexican frustrations grew when Bravo, set free in space with only the goalkeeper to beat, skied his effort over the goal.

Goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez almost gifted Portugal a third goal with an ill-advised roll of the ball into a congested area in front of his box, but Simao shot over.

Jose Fonseca went close at the other end as the thrill-a-minute match drew to a close.

Mexico needed just a point to finish ahead of third-placed Angola, who started the day three points behind and with an inferior goal-difference.

But they were rocked after six minutes when Simao burst down the left flank, drawing defenders on the edge of the area before laying off to Maniche, who buried it in the top right.

Mexico almost found an immediate response when Bravo’s flying volley went just wide.

But Portugal doubled their lead after a moment of madness from, of all people, Mexican captain Rafael Marquez, who instinctively palmed away a corner while under pressure from Fernando Meira.

Sabrosa stepped up to stroke the penalty past Sanchez, who was so busy jiggling along his line that he left a gaping hole to his right.

Mexico looked on course for a hammering but they received a lift on 29 minutes when Fonseca, unmarked and six yards out, headed a corner low and into the bottom left.

Portugal came close through Helder Postiga and Tiago but Mexico closed the half strongly with Fonseca putting a header wide and Pavel Pardo testing goalkeeper Ricardo from distance.

However, Mexico’s revival lost momentum after the penalty miss and sending-off within minutes of each other in the second half.

Portugal will play the runners-up in Group C, whose leaders Argentina and the Netherlands are meeting later on Wednesday, while Mexico will take on the winners.

Mexico have now qualified for the knock-out stages in four consecutive World Cups while Portugal are in the second phase for the first time since 1966 under World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.—AFP


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