El Tri coughs up 2-0 lead in Sendoff Series finale

El Tri 2, Colombia 3

When Gerardo Arteaga (No. 6) flicked this shot past Colombia goalie David Ospina, El Tri led 2-0 in minute 29. But not much went right after that for Team Mexico as the South American side went on to win 3-2. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Colombia scored three times in 20 minutes to erase a 2-0 deficit and hand El Tri a 3-2 loss in Mexico’s final game before the team departs for the World Cup in November.

The second-half collapse erased a splendid opening 30 minutes that saw Mexico jump out to a 2-0 lead, the second a gem of a goal that punctuated a lengthy possession in Colombia’s defensive third.

Alexis Vega scored from the penalty spot in minute 6 after Liverpool’s Luis Díaz coughed up the ball in his own end then foul Uriel Antuna in the box.

Left back Gerardo Arteaga doubled the lead in minute 29 collecting an Erick Gutiérrez pass inside the box after Vega’s dummy had fooled the Colombia defenders. Arteage flicked the ball past a helpless David Ospina from 10 meters.

Sloppy second-half play costs El Tri

Mexico played disciplined defense the final 15 minutes of the first half, holding the South Americans without a shot on goal. That all changed shortly after play resumed.

Charlie Rodríguez was the culprit on the first goal. The Cruz Azul midfielder committed two turnovers back-to-back that led to a Colombian fast break and a corner kick. Juve’s Juan Cuadrado delivered a perfect centering pass to Luis Sinisterra and his powerful header zipped into the back of the net.

Then Pachuca’s Kevin Álvarez played the patsy, coughing the ball up twice in succession while out of position. The second giveaway led to another Colombia corner kick.

The world No. 17 team held the ball up front, pressing forward until Jorge Carrascal got inside the box on the right side before cutting back a pass to Sinisterra. The Leeds United forward slashed a right-footer inside the far post and the game was tied 2-2.

El Tri 2, Colombia 3

Wilmar Barrios (No. 5) watches his volley get past El Tri goalie Guillermo Ochoa in minute 68. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Sixteen minutes later, Wilmar Barrios thumped a spectacular volley that El Tri netminder Memo Ochoa had nary a chance of stopping. The ball whizzed past the right post and Colombia was up 3-2.

El Tri had a few decent looks at goal but did not test Ospina again. Mexico was outshot 7-2 in the second half and five of Colombia’s shots were on target.

Coach “Tata” Martino will be upset with his team’s second-half debacle. Rodríguez is expected to be a contributor in midfield in Qatar, but his performance during the Sendoff Series left a lot to be desired. “Charlie” played 84 minutes against Peru and 60 against Colombia but has little to show for it.

As for Álvarez, his showing was rather unsettling. The 23-year-old right back was seen as a trustworthy back-up to Jorge Sánchez but his careless passing in both games left the El Tri defense vulnerable on the counter. Just minutes after the turnover that led to the equalizer, Kevin was dispossessed while out of position and Colombia nearly scored again.

Coach Martino was obviously upset at Kevin’s haphazard play that he replaced him with César Montes, a central defender, and moved central defender Néstor Araujo to right back.

El Tri will fly back to Mexico on Wednesday and the players will return to their clubs thereafter. Team Mexico will gather for a quick pre-World Cup training camp in Mexico City in early November, before flying to Spain for a pair of exhibition matches (Iraq on Nov. 9 and Sweden on Nov. 16).

Coach Martino must submit his final roster on Nov. 14 and El Tri opens World Cup play against Poland on Nov. 22 in Doha.