PASADENA (AP) — Javier Hernandez scored on a first-half header, and Mexico survived a tense second half to advance to the Copa America quarterfinals Thursday night with a 2-0 victory over Jamaica.
Substitute Oribe Peralta scored in the 81st minute and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made several big stops in El Tri’s 11th consecutive win in international play, including its first two Copa America games.READ MORE: Brush Fire Burns Near 5 Freeway In Pyramid Lake Area
Mexico advanced from its group along with surprising Venezuela, which beat Uruguay earlier. Mexico and Venezuela will meet Monday in Houston to determine the higher seed in knockout play.
Chicharito put Mexico ahead in the 18th minute with an exceptional header, outjumping Wes Morgan and setting off a seismic celebration at a Rose Bowl packed with Mexican fans for the rematch of last year’s Gold Cup final.
The 28-year-old Hernandez got his 45th career goal for Mexico, leaving him one shy of tying Jared Borgetti’s national team record.
Mexico struggled at times before Peralta came on for Chicharito and promptly scored a late goal. Ochoa was forced to make several big plays after sitting out the opener, including a diving fingertip save of Michael Hector’s long strike in the 84th minute.
But the Mexicans remained unbeaten in 21 consecutive international matches, and they improved to 9-0-0 under coach Juan Carlos Osorio.
Jamaica was eliminated while going scoreless in its second straight Copa America match despite pressing throughout the night.
The Rose Bowl crowd of 83,263 was utterly dominated by green-clad fans cheering the effective home team in this U.S.-based tournament. El Tri attracts enormous crowds wherever it plays north of the border, but few fans are more passionate than those in Los Angeles’ enormous Mexican-American community.READ MORE: Robert Durst, New York Real Estate Scion, Convicted Of 1st Degree Murder In Death Of Longtime Friend Susan Berman
Despite the raucous fan support — or perhaps because of it — Mexico had a few nervy defensive moments early, including a missed net by Clayton Donaldson on a good counterattacking chance for Jamaica.
Mexico went ahead when Jesus Manuel Corona tracked down Raul Jimenez’s cross and sent it back in front to Chicharito. The Bayer Leverkusen star outjumped Leicester’s Morgan, who didn’t start Jamaica’s opener because coach Winfried Schaefer said he was too tired from partying to celebrate the Foxes’ Premier League title.
Jamaica pressed forward again, but defender Yasser Corona blocked a close shot by Je-Vaughn Watson of the New England Revolution in the 35th minute.
Ochoa made a series of canny stops in the 39th minute as Jamaica pressed forward heavily for an equalizer. Mexico couldn’t counter and struggled even for possession, managing just one shot in the first half.
Jamaica’s strong play continued after halftime. When Yasser Corona took down Donaldson in the penalty area in the 64th minute, Jamaica’s incensed bench demanded a penalty, to no avail.
Mexico finally finished when Hirving Lozano made a long run and found Hector Herrera, who dropped it off to Peralta.
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