CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Amidst a doping scandal involving five of their players, including two starters, Mexico managed yet another 5-0 Group A rout, this time against Cuba on Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium.
Braces from hot striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Giovani dos Santos and another goal from Aldo de Nigris helped Mexico soar with style into the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup. Cuba, on the other hand, wave farewell to the tournament with one match remaining.
As was expected, Mexico came out firing against a weaker team. Just three minutes in, Giovani made a breaking run along the right flank to feed a clean ball to Chicharito, who sent his shot just wide of the goal.
Surprisingly, Cuba answered right back through Roberto Linares. After seeing Mexico goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera come off his line, the striker tried to put the ball over his opponent but instead sent it wide.
It didn’t take long for Chicharito to again fire off a warning. In the eighth minute, the Manchester United starlet found himself with just Cuba 'keeper Odelín Molina to beat. Chicharito wound up and let loose a shot, but Molina managed to put his hand on the ball to send it over the crossbar.
The Caribbeans stood tall and thwarted Mexico’s advances, but El Tri finally chipped at the wall in the 36th minute. Winger Andrés Guardado sent a cross into the area that Chicharito met with his head to guide it home.
With their task of unlocking Cuba’s defense complete, Mexico opted to save their arsenal for the second half.
If the first goal managed only to chip Cuba’s wall, the barrier quickly crumbled in the second stanza when, in a span of 14 minutes, Mexico sunk in the remaining for goals of their haul on Thursday night.
First, Pablo Barrera sent in a cross to Giovani in the 63rd minute. The speedy Mexican managed to beat the defender to the ball to put Mexico ahead 2-0 and put Cuba’s nightmare into full swing.
Two minutes later, second-half substitute de Nigris struck gold. After coming on for Barrera, the forward tallied Mexico’s third goal off a pass from Chicharito.
In the 68th minute, Giovani complete his brace by blasting in a dish from right back Efraín Juárez.
Not to be outdone, Chicharito complete his own double in the 76th minute. It was his fifth goal in the Gold Cup, which easily puts him at the top of the scoring department.
Cuba searched to pull one back during the remaining 14 minutes, but were denied by Talavera. Instead, it was de Nigris who almost made it three braces for Mexico on the night, but his late effort was ruled offside.