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Mexico loses to Chile on own goal

Eriksson doesn't have his full squad available for friendly in front of 32,924 at Coliseum.

September 25, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

As far as Mexico Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was concerned, Wednesday night's international soccer friendly against Chile at the Coliseum was nothing more than the chance to assess a few players.

It ended, 1-0, in the South Americans' favor on a 75th-minute own goal by Mexican defender Juan Carlos Valenzuela, but the result was of minor importance.

Unable to call up his big guns from Europe -- Wednesday not being a FIFA recognized international playing date -- Eriksson used the opportunity to take a look at a few old horses and a few young ones.

His verdict will have been mixed.

The old guard included defender Faustino Pinto, midfielders Antonio "Zinho" Naelson and Luis Ernesto Perez, and forward Francisco "Kikin" Fonseca, but only Perez, with his ceaseless running, impressed.

There were a handful of newcomers too, and among them was 20-year-old forward Enrique Esqueda from Queretaro.

The youngster almost made his mark in the seventh minute, twisting in the air and sending a header just inches over the crossbar.

It was a sign of the Club America player's confidence, a result of having been on Mexico's team that won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Peru in 2005.

Eriksson employed an attack-minded 4-3-3 formation and it was Mexico that showed all the initiative in the first 45 minutes, pinning the South Americans back in their half with some fluid passing moves.

Chile Coach Marcelo Bielsa also fielded a young team and its lack of experience showed as it struggled to break down a capable Mexican defense.

It was an hour before Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa was forced to make a real save, although forward Fabian Orellana did throw a scare into the Mexicans with a blazing shot that flew just wide seconds before the first half ended.

When called upon to tip Orellana's close-range header over the bar in the 61st minute, Ochoa was up to the challenge.

But there was nothing the goalkeeper could do on the miscue by Valenzuela, who accidentally turned the ball into his own net when Chile's Jose Pedro Fuenzalida sent a hard cross in from the right flank with about 15 minutes left in the game.

Shortly before that, Mexico had almost taken the lead, but Chile goalkeeper Miguel Pinto made a fine diving save to turn away Fonseca's fierce shot to the dismay of Mexican fans in the crowd of 32,924.

When Chile took the lead, its fans were treated to the usual Coliseum reaction and were pelted with cups and plastic bottles, but the incidents were soon over as even Mexico's faithful realized that there was no sense in getting upset over an essentially meaningless friendly.

Mexico's next meaningful matches are World Cup qualifiers at Jamaica and Canada in October, when Chile also resumes its qualifying campaign with games against Ecuador in Quito and Argentina in Santiago.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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