Mexico are on the cusp of booking their place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup after inflicting a 5-1 drubbing on New Zealand in the first leg of Wednesday’s intercontinental qualification match at Estadio Azteca.
Oribe Peralta scored twice for the hosts and Paul Aguilar, Raul Jimenez and Rafael Marquez also found the back of the net for El Tri while Chris James netted a late consolation goal for the guests.
New Mexico manager Miguel Herrera had omitted Europe-based players from his roster in the run-up to the tie, citing the effects of flights to both Central America and Oceania, and the decision seemed to pay off with a comprehensive showing from the CONCACAF giants.
Still, it took the 14-time World Cup participants just over half-an-hour to open the scoring, although they quite nearly went in front in the 19th minute when New Zealand goalkeeper Glen Moss made a last-ditch save off the line and then again just five minutes later when Maza Rodriguez rang a powerful shot from distance off the cross-bar.
But in the 32nd minute Aguilar finally kicked down the floodgates—the Club America defender capitalized on a poor defensive clearance that fell right into his path.
And then, with five minutes remaining in the period, Jimenez doubled the advantage after redirecting Carlos Pena’s header from a corner-kick past Moss.
Mexico kept their foot on the gas after the restart and got their third goal of the afternoon just three minutes into the second frame.
Marquez, restored to the captaincy, began the play with a long, diagonal ball to Miguel Layun on the right flank, and after controlling it the 25-year-old drilled in an accurate cross for Peralta to turn into goal.
From there the match was over as a contest, although Peralta would get his second of the match following another Marquez-Layun combination before Marquez, himself, rose to head home Mexico’s fifth goal of the first leg.
In the 85th minute James pulled one back for New Zealand with a fine finish from the centre of the box, but at the final whistle Mexico were applauded off the field for their finest performance of the calendar year.
Key Player Grades
Oribe Peralta: A+
The Santos Laguna marksman was deadly in front of goal on Wednesday, scoring with both his feet and his head to bring his international tally to 12 from 27 matches. The 29-year-old has been one of the few bright spots for Mexico in what has been an annus horribilis and will go into next week’s second leg as El Tri’s form attacker.
Miguel Layun: A
|Mexico Player Ratings|
Making just his seventh appearance for Mexico, the 25-year-old operated as a wing-back against New Zealand and picked up a pair of assists on Peralta’s brace. For much of the match he absolutely dominated the left-hand side of the pitch and will surely have put himself in Herrera’s first-team plans when the European players are recalled in the New Year.
Glen Moss: B-
|New Zealand Player Ratings|
There wasn’t much poor Moss could do against the onslaught he faced at the Azteca. And yet the 30-year-old Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper was heroic at times for New Zealand—particularly in making the punched save off the goal-line that denied Mexico an early opener. He faced 10 shots in total on Wednesday.
Mexico are almost certainly through to the Group Stage of the World Cup and will enter next Wednesday’s second leg in Wellington as a mere formality. New Zealand, meanwhile, will no doubt look to at least put on a show in front of the 35,000 fans who will be in attendance at Westpac Stadium.