El Tri salvages 3 points in Jamaica with late heroics

Jesus Corona and Diego Lainez celebrate after El Tri overcame a 1-0 deficit and an uninspired performance to defeat Jamaica. (Photo by RICARDO MAKYN/AFP via Getty Images)
Jesus Corona and Diego Lainez celebrate after El Tri overcame a 1-0 deficit and an uninspired performance to defeat Jamaica. (Photo by RICARDO MAKYN/AFP via Getty Images) /
El Tri steals 3 points-Jamaica
Alexis Vega celebrates after scoring the winner for El Tri against Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier. (Photo by RICARDO MAKYN/AFP via Getty Images) /

Mexico overcame an insipid performance with two late goals to defeat 10-man Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier, perhaps saving “Tata” Martino’s job in the process.

Alexis Vega assisted on Henry Martín’s equalizer in minute 81 then converted a sweet pass from sub Jesús Corona two minutes later to erase 80 minutes of lackadaisical play that threatened to drop El Tri into fourth place in the Concacaf qualifying table.

Host Jamaica went down to 10 men just before the half but took the lead five minutes after the restart thanks to some indifferent defending on a corner kick.

Even with participation in Qatar 2022 suddenly looking tenuous, El Tri did not respond. Errant passing and lots of standing around allowed the shorthanded “Reggae Boyz” to preserve their lead for another half-hour until Vega stepped into the hero’s role.

El Tri gets bad news before opening whistle

During pre-game warm-ups, Mexico’s midfield ace Edson Álvarez came up lame and was pulled from the starting line-up. Then five minutes into the match at Kingston’s Independence Park, right fullback Jorge Sánchez was forced out with a leg injury.

El Tri was already shorthanded as forwards “Chucky” Lozano (red-card suspension) and Raúl Jiménez (calf) were not in the squad and defender César Montes was out after testing positive for Covid-19.

Coach Martino was already on the hot seat after El Tri lost to Team USA and Canada to fall out of first place in the group. His status was not made more secure after an uninspired first 45 minutes.

Despite dominating the ball – 66% of mostly sterile possession – Mexico managed just two shots on goal. The team looked complacent and wasteful.

The Monterrey pair of Jesús Gallardo and Rogelio Funes Mori were particularly ineffective. Left back Gallardo squandered numerous chances to send in crosses, while Funes Mori failed to create space and twice opted to fall down from contact instead of staying with the play.

Then came the red card and El Tri seemed destined to collect three key points on the road. But after falling behind in stunning fashion, there was no collective reaction. Héctor Herrera led the way with multiple turnovers, Gallardo still couldn’t find a way around his marker and sub Diego Lainez was caught over-dribbling a few times.

With 20 minutes remaining, “Tata” sent in three subs and the offense perked up just a bit. But at minute 80, El Tri still had only two shots on goal.

Then, as the clock ticked past 81 minutes, Carlos Rodríguez dropped a pass back to “Tecatito” at the top right corner of the box and the Sevilla man lofted a cross to the back post. Vega’s sharp-angled header was clawed away from the crossbar by goalie Andre Blake but Martín was there to trundle the rebound over the goal line.

Soon thereafter, “Tecatito” was at it again. He swerved into the box then circled back around before touching a short pass to Rodríguez. Charlie had time to turn and quickly chipped a pass over the defense to Vega and the Chivas star fired a low volley that a scrambling Blake could not keep out of the net.

Next. Roster shuffling continues in Liga MX. dark

The 2-1 win leaves El Tri with 17 points, two back of first-place Canada and a point behind the U.S. Mexico returns home for its next two qualifiers – Sunday vs. Costa Rica and Feb. 2 against Panama.