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Mexico Edges El Salvador in Opener

January 20, 2002|Grahame L. Jones and Valerie Gutierrez

Mexico took advantage of a mistake by El Salvador goalkeeper Santos Rivera on Saturday and went on to win, 1-0, at the Rose Bowl in the opening round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Rivera's miscue came in the 31st minute when he failed to hold a low, hard shot by Mexican midfielder Tomas Campos, who had received a thoughtful square pass from Carlos Ochoa.

When the ball squirted out of Rivera's grasp, forward Jair Garcia was on hand to direct it into the back of the net.

The result was a fair reflection of the Mexico's domination of the game. Coach Javier Aguirre fielded what was basically a third-string lineup, choosing not to antagonize club owners in the Mexican league by calling on his top players this early in a World Cup year.

It made little difference. El Salvador found it difficult to keep up with what was a surprisingly fluid Mexican team. Among the Salvadoran players, only winger Ronald Cerritos, of the Major League Soccer champion San Jose Earthquakes, and defender Marvin Benitez showed any flair.

Afterward, Aguirre said it was too early to say which of his players had made a case for themselves to be included in the squad that goes to Japan/Korea '02 this summer.

"We didn't play too well," he said. "We played nervously. ... Ninety minutes is not enough to evaluate. I have to watch the whole tournament."

The Mexican team had come close to scoring on three occasions before Garcia's goal. In the 19th minute, Garcia flashed a header over the crossbar. Sixty seconds later, Erick Espinoza sliced a shot wide right. In the 26th minute, Ochoa, a promising 23-year-old who played for Azusa Pacific, tried an improbable shot from 25 yards that dipped and fell onto the roof of the net.

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Grahame L. Jones and Valerie Gutierrez

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