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Mexico Leaves It Late in 2-1 Victory : Soccer: Goals by Suarez and Hernandez in final 15 minutes against Saudi Arabia get Bora off to a winning start.

October 12, 1995|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bora Milutinovic's luck still holds.

Just when it seemed his new-look Mexican national team would lose to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday night at the Coliseum, up from nowhere popped Claudia Suarez and Luis Hernandez with the game-tying and game-winning goals.

As a result Mexico won, 2-1, sending a crowd of more than 40,000 home happy and getting Milutinovic off to a successful start in his second stint as Mexico's coach.

But it was hardly a convincing victory.

In a game marred by frequent fouls that caused American referee Joshua Patlack to issue eight yellow cards and one red card, the Mexicans won because of hard work and determination.

Entertainment and artistry were in short supply at the Coliseum.

Saudi Arabia, which had watched a 3-0 lead turn into a 4-3 defeat to the United States at RFK Stadium in Washington on Sunday, was intent on avoiding a repeat. As a result, the Saudis packed their defense and invited Mexico to do all the attacking.

But try as veterans such as Ramon Ramirez and Luis Garcia might, Mexico was unable to unlock that defense. Instead, it was the Saudis who grabbed the first goal.

It came on a free kick by striker Saeed Owairan, who fired a shot from 30 yards that deflected off a defender and found the lower left corner of the net beyond the reach of Mexican goalkeeper Nicolas Navarro.

Even though the Saudis had to play a man short for the entire second half after the expulsion of Fahad Mehalel for contact with the referee during one of the frequent protests, the 1-0 lead held until the final 13 minutes.

Suarez tied the score with 12:39 to play on a header from close range, and Hernandez won it five minutes later.

*

Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Spain and Switzerland became the first countries to qualify for next summer's 16-nation European Championship in England.

Close to joining those five and the host nation in the June finals are Romania, France, Denmark, Portugal, Scotland, Croatia, Italy and Norway.

Also remaining in contention are the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Turkey, Ireland and Austria.

The final round of qualifying matches is on Nov. 15.

Soccer Notes

Major League Soccer acquired its first coach when Ron Newman accepted the position at the league's Kansas City franchise. . . . Mia Hamm was named U.S. Soccer's female player of the year for the second consecutive year.

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