44,232 soccer fans, mostly supporting Mexico filed in to the Alamodome on Sunday as Mexico took on Curacao and were left somewhat stunned as Mexico managed a 2-0 win, a scoreline that flatters them.
After being outplayed for much of the early part of the match Mexico finally settled and they took the lead in the 23rd minute. A cross to the far post had the Curacao defense scrambling, which left just enough space for Angel Spulveda to get a header away, across the face of the goal and in to the back of the net, a goal they barely deserved.
Mexico finally grabbed another goal in stoppage time after some poor Curacao defending left Edson Alvarez acres of space. That left him with a simple finish to make it two, and give Mexico a win they barely deserved.
Up against the odds Curacao played a 5-4-1, often practically playing a 5-5-0 to try and hold out the Mexican attack. It worked to some extent, but as expected Mexico had the bulk of possession in the match.
Curacao was looking phenomenally dangerous on the counter, having the bulk of the early chances through their striker Gino Van Kessel. Twice he sprung the offside trap and got through, nearly scoring, and in the 15th minute he was only denied by a strong Jesus Corona save.
After taking the lead, Mexico looked to just control the match from there, holding possession knowing any win would be enough to take them through as the group winners. That made for not the most exciting soccer, but the strong Mexican fan contingent in the crowd didn’t seem too bothered by that.
Mexico should have made it two in the 36th minute when Erick Gutierrez was left wide open but couldn’t get his shot away. The ball to Gutierrez was perfect but the midfielder just couldn’t get it out of his feet, hitting a slow roller that was easily saved by the Curacao goalkeeper.
Curacao started the second half well, again controlling the opening 15-20 minutes of the half as Mexico struggled to have an impact. But again they couldn’t break down the Mexican defense, with Van Kessel so isolated.
Some terrible Mexico defending gave Curacao a golden chance to make it 1-1 in the 57th minute after Van Kessel was left wide open. That saw him get a chance away, only to be denied by a great Corona save. The rebound saw Mexico half clear the ball, only for it to fall to Darryl Lachmann whose shot beat Corona but cannoned off the cross bar.
Curacao goalkeeper Eloy Room was putting in a phenomenal performance in the 65th minute to keep it to 1-0.The shot came in powerfully but Room leaped at full stretch and put it out impressively for a corner.
Room was at it again in the 81st minute when Elias Hernandez was running clean through on goal, looking certain to score. But Room stood up strong, parrying the ball away and keeping Curacao in the match.
In the 86th minute Mexico should have made it two from a corner but again Room came up to make the save yet again.
In the 87th minute Mexico took offense to the reaction of Elson Hooi to a Mexican player on the ground. Hooi saw it as time wasting, which it likely was but Mexico were upset Hooi’s reaction, luckily the referee sorted it out.
In the end Mexico did just enough to top the group, and will play Honduras in the second round. That also finalized the three unclear quarterfinals as the United States will face El Salvador and Jamaica will play Canada.