El Tri overturns 2-goal deficit to earn draw vs Australia

UNAM's César Huerta exults after scoring the equalizer in Mexico's 2-2 draw against Australia. Huerto was making his el Tri debut. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
UNAM's César Huerta exults after scoring the equalizer in Mexico's 2-2 draw against Australia. Huerto was making his el Tri debut. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
El Tri Australia
Australia’s Harry Souttar leans over Mexico’s Johan Vásquez and heads home the opener on Saturday night. El Tri and the Socceroos played to a 2-2 draw. (Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports) /

Frantic fightback earns El Tri draw vs Aussies

If Jimmy Lozano could get his guys to play the entire game like they did for the final 20 minutes, El Tri would actually deserve to be ranked No. 12 in the world. (That’s right! I took a shot at the farcical FIFA World Rankings right in the lead!)

A minute 83 golazo by debutante César Huerta gave Mexico a 2-2 draw and a rampant El Tri had the woozy Socceroos on their heels down the stretch but simply couldn’t find a last-minute haymaker to claim the win.

After a listless, luckless and at times clueless first half, Mexico trailed Australia 1-0 because Johan Vásquez lost his man on a minute 16 corner kick. (How you lose the 6’5” Harry Souttar inside the box, I honestly don’t know … the pair would play key roles in Huerta’s equalizer so things evened out). El Tri actually had 70 percent possession through the first 45 minutes – extremely sterile possession, to be fair – while producing just one scoring chance.

That would change after the restart.

Less than 10 minutes into the second half, Luis Romo – one of the few stars of the night for El Tri – earned a penalty, but Santi Giménez clanked his spot kick off the left post and Mexico lost the momentum it had begun to build. And that lapse nearly proved fatal as the Aussies converted a penalty called in their favor to move ahead 2-0 in minute 63.

El Tri looked deflated, but only momentarily, and a Romo lead pass sent Uriel Antuna behind the defense down the right channel. When Antuna felt Cameron Burgess’ hand on his back he executed a perfect belly-flop and roll, and was rewarded with a penalty call. This time Raúl Jiménez stepped up to the ball and he made no mistake, cutting the deficit in half in minute 69.

Mexico then grabbed the game by its throat and went on the attack, flowing forward in waves. In addition to Huerta and Jiménez who checked in at minute 60, subs Jordi Cortizo and Erick Sánchez put tremendous pressure on the Aussie defense.

El Tri was carrying the ball through the middle of the field, sending probing passes down the flanks, moving with purpose in between the Aussie lines but the Socceroos did not leave easy passing lanes into the area and Mexico seemed to be near desperation.

In minute 83, Vásquez thumped a left-footer from his own half toward the box. As the ball soared toward Souttar, the Aussie defender inexplicably ducked and allowed the ball to bounce just inside the 18-year rectangle. No doubt he expected keeper Mathew Ryan to gather up the bounding ball.

El Tri Aussies Huerta
César Huerta had a dream debut with El Tri. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

Huerta, who never broke stride, raced past Souttar, swooped in on the sphere and blasted a one-time, left-footed volley inside the near post, thrilling the exuberant Jerry World crowd who would remain in full throat the rest of the game.

Mexico pinned their collective ears back in search of a game-winner but managed to produce only a weak Roberto Alvarado header in minute 90+2. Two other shots were blocked by defenders.

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Notes: Cortizo also earned his first national team cap, entering in minute 76. The Monterrey man played well, once gesturing at Antuna in frustration when the El Tri winger sent in an aimless cross instead of cutting it back to Cortizo who was all alone at the top of the box. … Nine of El Tri’s 13 shots came in the second half. … Australia came into the match ranked No. 27 in the world. … Mexico next plays on Tuesday night in Atlanta against world No. 74 Uzbekistan.