The Mexican national team took on Ecuador in California on Saturday night in El Tri’s first game of 2015, and they walked away with a narrow 1-0 victory. An early goal by Javier Hernández stood up thanks to some excellent goalkeeping by José de Jesús Corona, who even saved a penalty kick en route to recording a shutout.
Ecuador, which celebrated Walter Ayoví’s 100th cap in the pregame ceremonies, dominated the opening minutes of play, but without an end product. The Ecuadorians would finish the game with more shots and more shots on goal than Mexico, but they were never able to get past Corona.
The opening goal would come for Mexico against the run of play in the 14th minute. Javier Hernández won the ball from Frickson Erazo and drove in towards the box, sending his shot into the left-hand corner and in off the post.
It was Chicharito’s 39th goal for the Mexican national team, which tied him with Cuauhtémoc Blanco for second on the list of all-time goalscorers, behind Jared Borgetti, who scored 46 times in his 89 caps.
Mexico’s defense was a bit shaky in the absence of such veteran stalwarts as Rafa Márquez (injury) and “Maza” Rodríguez (family reasons), with Diego Reyes and Hugo Ayala in particular raising some doubts. Jesús Corona stole the show in goal for Mexico, covering for his defenders time and again with a series of impressive saves.
Ecuador had more possession and did well enough with it, stringing together attacks and getting into Mexico’s defensive third consistently. It looked like they would find the goal they had been threatening to score in the 71st minute, when Diego Reyes was called for a foul on Ángel Mena in the box.
Referee Christopher Reid pointed to the spot and Miller Bolaños stepped up to take the penalty kick. Ecuador was denied once again, though, as Corona cemented his man-of-the-match performance with yet another save.
El Tri had a handful of chances to add to their lead, but Corona wasn’t the only goalkeeper in good form tonight. Alex Domínguez was alert and came off his line well on several occasions to snuff out chances, and he also made a pair of saves late on to keep his team in the game.
In the end, Mexico got off to a winning start in 2015, and if the win was a little unconvincing at times, well, they still have time to straighten things out before a busy summer of international competitions.
Mexico and Ecuador will face off again in one of those competitions, the Copa América, where they are in Group A along with Chile and Bolivia. In the meantime, Mexico has another international friendly three days from now, against Paraguay in Kansas City on Tuesday, March 31st.
Mexico: José de Jesús Corona, Paul Aguilar, Hugo Ayala, Diego Reyes, Héctor Moreno, Miguel Layún, Héctor Herrera (Jürgen Damm 84′), José Juan Vázquez (Javier Güemez 73′), Andrés Guardado, Giovani dos Santos (Raúl Jiménez 75′), Javier Hernández (Eduardo Herrera 93′).
Ecuador: Alexander Domínguez, Juan Carlos Paredes (Joao Rojas 80′), Arturo Mina, Frickson Erazo, Walter Ayoví, Enner Valencia, Cristian Noboa, Osbaldo Lastra, Jefferson Montero (Ángel Mena 43′), Felipe Salvador Caicedo (Fidel Martínez 74′), Miller Bolaños.