EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Second-half goals by forwards Aldo de Nigris and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández helped Mexico survive a first-half scare to come from behind and defeat Guatemala 2-1 in their Gold Cup quarterfinal on Saturday night at New Meadowlands Stadium.
It marked the third straight semifinal appearance for Mexico, who will take on Honduras in the next round at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Wednesday, June 22.
Guatemala gave Mexico a scare with an early goal after five minutes scored by Philadelphia Union forward Carlos Ruiz. His teammate Elías Vásquez sent a long ball to Ruiz, who was hovering around the Mexican penalty area. He shook off defender Héctor Moreno and before losing his balance and hitting the ground, Ruiz sent a volley past Mexico goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera.
The goal did not change the anticipated script of the match, as Mexico dominated the proceedings with Giovani dos Santos, Andrés Guardardo, Pablo Barrera and Hernández at the center of all the action. But the Mexicans lacked sharpness near goal — at least in the first half — with the best opportunity coming on a 13th minute header by Hernández that finished high of the target.
Seeking to add more punch to the attack, Mexico manager José “Chepo” de la Torre inserted de Nigris at center forward to start the second half and his move came up trumps three minutes later. After Moreno saw his two cracks on net blocked at the goal line — first a header saved by goalkeeper Ricardo Jérez and then a shot cleared by defender Carlos Gallardo — de Nigris was there to clean up the play, blasting home the final rebound for the 1-1 equalizer.
De Nigris nearly gave Mexico the lead in the 62nd minute when his header off yet another Barrera cross finished wide right. But “Chicharito” Hernández would make up for the miss and get a second for El Tri just four minutes later.
Guatemala cleared away a cross from dos Santos but the ball fell to Barrera, who threaded another ball from the right side through a crowded penalty area. The ball reached an unmarked Hernández, who used a fancy back heel flick with his right foot to score his tournament-leading sixth goal from the middle of the six-yard box.
The underdog Guatemalans tried to recover from the one-two punch delivered by Mexico and Ruiz generated their best opportunity at an equalizer. His blistering shot from 20 yards out in the 72nd minute was destined to finish inside the right post but Talavera was up to the task.
That represented the final salvo from Guatemala with Mexico coming closest to scoring again on more than one occasion in the final stages. Second-half substitute Ángel Reyna saw his shot saved by the goalkeeper and then cleared off the line with six minutes remaining, but two goals were more than sufficient on this night for the defending Gold Cup champions.
GUA – C. Ruiz (Vasquez) 5’
MEX – A. de Nigris 48’
MEX – J. Hernandez (Barrera) 66’
Mexico (4-4-2, left to right): #12 Alfredo Talavera -- #3 Carlos Salcido, #4 Rafael Marquez (capt.), #15 Hector Moreno, #16 Efrain Juarez -- #18 Andres Guardado, #6 Gerardo Torrado, #8 Israel Castro (46’ #9 Aldo de Nigris), #10 Giovani dos Santos (78’ #11 Angel Reyna) -- #7 Pablo Barrera (83’ #13 Jesus Zavala), #14 Javier Hernandez
Subs Not Used: #23 Jonathan Orozco, #20 Jorge Torres Nilo, #22 Elias Hernandez
Manager: Jose Manuel de la Torre (Mexico)
Guatemala: #1 Ricardo Jerez, #23 Jairo Arreloa (70’ #18 Oscar Isaula), #5 Carlos Gallardo, #3 Cristian Noriega, #7 Elias Vasquez (71’ #4 Carlos Castrillo), #16 Marco Pappa, #9 Wilfred Velasquez, #6 Gustavo Cabrera, #24 Jonathan Lopez, #10 Jose Manuel Contreras, #20 Carlos Ruiz (capt.), #19 Jose Del Aguila
Subs Not Used: #12 Paulo Cesar Motta, #8 Gonzalo Romero, #13 Edwin Gonzalez, #15 Manuel Leon, #11 Henry Lopez, #17 Dwight Pezzarossi,
Manager: Ever Hugo Almeida (Paraguay)
DISCIPLINARY SUMMARY: 16’ Lopez (caution), 55’ Velasquez (caution), 72’ Del Aguila (caution), 86’ Marquez (caution)
Referee: Courtney Campbell (Jamaica)
Assistant Referees: Ricardo Morgan (Jamaica), C.J. Morgante (USA)
Fourth Official: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)
Weather: Partly cloudy, 80 degrees