El Tri escapes El Salvador with all 3 points

Defender Héctor Moreno (No. 15) is mobbed by El tri teammates after scoring off a corner kick i minute 30. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)
Defender Héctor Moreno (No. 15) is mobbed by El tri teammates after scoring off a corner kick i minute 30. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images) /
El Tri wins in El Salvador
Luis Romo (right) was a beast in midfield for El Tri, a constant thorn in el Salvador’s side the entire 90 minutes. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images) /

An undisciplined Mexico side survived the Estadio Cuscatlán cauldron, escaping El Salvador with a 2-0 win to remain atop the Concacaf World Cup qualifying table after the sixth round of games.

Héctor Moreno nodded home a corner kick at the half-hour mark and Raúl Jiménez added a penalty kick just before the final whistle, but it was mayhem in between.

Ref Drew Fischer played a pivotal role in the outcome, forgiving El Salvador a first-half ejection before showing a harsh red card to El Salvador’s Mario Jacobo in minute 48. He then evened things up with the expulsion of El Tri defender Néstor Araujo 19 minutes later.

The ref’s decision to award Mexico a spot kick in minute 90+1 was also dubious as replays indicated the Salvadoran defender made contact with the ball before brushing Jiménez.

El Tri leads Team USA by 3 points

The road win pushes El Tri to 14 points – and first place – through six rounds of play in the Concacaf Octagonal. The World Cup qualifiers continue in early November with Mexico traveling to Cincinnati to take on the second-placed Americans, a 2-1 winner over visiting Costa Rica.

Canada routed Panama 4-1 after conceding the opening goal, moving the Canucks into third place with 10 points, leap-frogging the Panamanians (8 points).

Coach Gerardo Martino made eight changes to the El Tri line-up that eased past Honduras on Sunday night. Of the new starters, left back Osvaldo Rodríguez and midfielder Luis Romo acquitted themselves quite well. Veteran right back Julio César Domínguez and midfielder Carlos Rodríguez also earned positive marks.

Araujo returned to the starting line-up in place of César Montes who was sitting out a one-game suspension. The red card means the Celta de Vigo defender will miss the showdown with Team USA. But the ejection was so heedless (a forearm shiver to an opponent out near midfield with no danger of a break and a teammate arriving for a double-team) you’d rather he not be available against the U.S., if that is an indication of his decision-making.

After a sloppy and frantic opening sequence, El Tri began to tilt the field a bit. Romo and “Charlie” Rodríguez patrolled midfield imperiously, but nobody took charge in the attacking third. It didn’t help that Chivas ace Alexis Vega pulled up lame and had to be subbed out in minute 20.

Moreno scored off the team’s third corner kick of the night just moments after “Charlie” ripped a shot from 20 meters that Salvadoran goalie Mario González parried aside.

A few minutes later, Isaac Portillo dug a cleat into Romo’s left ankle but was only cautioned by ref Fischer even as replays showed it was a clear red-card foul.

Just 3 minutes after the restart – perhaps with that missed ejection on his mind – the official translated a jersey tug by Mario Jacobo as a red card. Rogelio Funes Mori had gotten past Jacobo and was racing toward the box when the Salvadoran defender yanked him down. A yellow card- yes; red card-no, no way.

El Tri seemed to be settling in for a comfortable win, patiently probing the defense with lengthy possessions, but Araujo’s incomprehensible decision in minute 67 foiled that plan. Instead, Mexico pressed, scrambled and chased, Romo and “Charlie” joined by Héctor Herrera (subbed in for an ineffective Orbelín Pineda).

As the clock wound down, Jiménez escaped down the right sideline, found an extra burst of energy and turned the corner, beating two defenders into the box near the touch line. Eduardo Vigil made a desperate lunging tackle and actually appeared to poke the ball, but Jiménez reacted convincingly, falling to the turf, arms upraised in a plea for a whistle. And he got it.

Jiménez converted from the spot, his 28th goal for El Tri, and Mexico was assured all 3 points.

dark. Next. Takeover at Newcastle is bad business

Skipper Guillermo Ochoa recorded his second consecutive shut-out and third of the tournament. “Memo” did not face a shot all game (El Salvador took 5 shots, none on target). El Tri fired 14 times, getting 6 on net.