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Mexico Takes Step Up, Beats Guatemala

Soccer: Mexicans advance to quarterfinals as Garces scores game-winning goal one minute after Guatemalans had tied it.

January 22, 2002

Raising the level of its play, Mexico swept into the quarterfinals of the sixth CONCACAF Gold Cup on Monday night by defeating Guatemala, 3-1, in front of a boisterous crowd of 31,244 at the Rose Bowl.

The fans, evenly split between both nations, were treated to a fast-paced game and a three-goal first half.

Mexico Coach Javier Aguirre's team, which will play Croatia, Ecuador and Italy in the World Cup this summer, took the lead in the 27th minute on a penalty kick by Adolfo Bautista.

Jamaican referee Peter Prendergast awarded the kick after Guatemalan defender Denis Chen handled the ball on the goal line following a corner kick. Chen was red-carded, leaving Guatemala a man short for the last hour.

Guatemala, whose defense appeared suspect from the opening whistle, responded by going to its strength and carried the play to Mexico. It managed to tie the score on a superb goal by Juan Carlos Plata in the 36th minute.

Taking the ball just over the halfway line, Plata set off of an long run, beating three defenders before firing the ball past goalkeeper Omar Ortiz.

Stung by this reversal, Mexico launched an attack and was rewarded a minute later when Marco Garces launched a shot from 20 yards that goalkeeper Edgar Estrada slowed but could not stop.

There were plenty of scoring chances through the rest of the match, but the only other goal came in injury time at the end of the game when Carlos Ochoa, a former Azusa Pacific University player who is being eyed by the Galaxy, scored.

"I think the game was even between the teams," said Guatemala Coach Julio Cesar Cortes. "We tried to do as much as we could to keep the same [intensity] of play, but with 10 players we couldn't keep it up."

The victory enabled Mexico, which defeated El Salvador, 1-0, on Saturday, to secure first place in its group. It will play either South Korea or Cuba in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

Galaxy Coach Sigi Schmid watched Guatemalan striker Carlos Ruiz, who is being pursued by the Major League Soccer team.

Ruiz, who plays for Comunicaciones in the Guatemalan league, said after the game that he would continue negotiations with MLS after the Gold Cup and that he was not interested in returning to Greece, where he also has played.

Grahame L. Jones and Valerie Gutierrez

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