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Mexico Pushes Its Luck, Beats Bulgaria

April 18, 2002|Grahame L. Jones

The luck that has ridden with Javier "Vasco" Aguirre since he took over as Mexico's national soccer team coach last year was still with him Wednesday night.

There were only five minutes left in Mexico's game against Bulgaria in front of 42,591 at East Rutherford, N.J., when Aguirre sent Francisco De Anda into the match.

The move should not have made any difference. De Anda is a defender, but as Aguirre's luck would have it, the Pachuca player found himself in the right place to score with 15 seconds remaining and give Mexico a 1-0 victory.

The result was deserved but improbable.

Mexico dominated the game statistically, winning nine corner kicks to only two for Bulgaria, which was content to sit back and counterattack.

So negative were the Bulgarians that Mexico goalkeeper Jorge Campos, who replaced starter Oscar Perez for the second half, did not have to make a save.

Mexico also led in a less appealing category. In a fast-paced but untidy and bruising game, it committed more than 30 fouls to barely a dozen for Bulgaria.

Part of that was caused by frustration. Aguirre started three strikers: former Galaxy forward Luis Hernandez and the Spanish-based duo of Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Francisco Palencia. But the goals would not come. Shots flew high or wide or were blocked.

After 75 minutes, Aguirre replaced Blanco and Palencia to no avail.

Just when it seemed the stalemate would not be broken, Mexico earned one last corner kick.

Ramon Morales sent the ball in from the left, it was headed on by Braulio Luna at the near post and flew to De Anda at the far post. His side-foot volley was completely beyond the reach of goalkeeper Yordan Gospodinov.

Mexico plays Croatia, Ecuador and Italy in the first round of the World Cup, and Aguirre has been lining up Eastern European opponents he believes will prepare Mexico for Croatia.

The first of them, Yugoslavia, defeated Mexico, 2-1, at Denver. The second, Albania, lost, 4-0, at San Diego. Now, Bulgaria has been subdued--barely.

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