Sports

Canada eye World Cup dream as Mexico freeze

 

Canada took a giant stride towards their first World Cup finals appearance in 36 years on Tuesday after beating Mexico 2-1 to vault to the top of the CONCACAF qualifying standings.

Two goals either side of half-time from Turkey-based forward Cyle Larin fired the Canadians to a victory, which leaves them one point clear of the United States with 16 points from eight games.

Hector Herrera’s 90th-minute goal for Mexico set up a frenzied finish at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, where snow had been cleared from the pitch shortly before kick-off as temperatures plunged to minus 9 degrees Celsius (15.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

The final whistle was met with a mass confrontation involving players from both sides as tempers flared.

The result means Canada are now firmly on course to qualify for next year’s finals in Qatar. Canada’s only other World Cup appearance came at the Mexico finals in 1986.

Canada’s win saw them leapfrog over the United States for top spot in CONCACAF’s eight-team final round of qualifying.

The USA were held to a 1-1 draw against Jamaica earlier Tuesday after a spectacular equaliser from West Ham striker Michail Antonio secured a share of the points for the Reggae Boyz.

Antonio’s 22nd-minute long-range effort cancelled out a superb individual goal by US forward Timothy Weah at Kingston’s Independence Park.

Weah, the 21-year-old son of former Liberia legend George Weah, fired the US ahead after 11 minutes.

The Lille forward played a clever one-two with striker Ricardo Pepi before surging into the Jamaican penalty area.

Jamaica’s Bobby Reid looked to have the danger covered, but Weah showed great strength to win possession before angling a deft shot across goal and in off the far post.

It was a fitting reward for a bright start by the US, who also went close on 16 minutes when Pepi’s shot was blocked before Brenden Aaronson’s follow-up effort was well-saved by Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake.

ANTONIO ROCKET

But the complexion of the game changed in Jamaica’s favour on 22 minutes when Antonio conjured a goal out of nowhere.

Nothing appeared to be on when Antonio picked up the ball in midfield.

But the striker cut inside the covering Tyler Adams and then unleashed a ferocious 30-yard effort which flew past US goalkeeper Zack Steffen and into the top corner.

The goal infused Jamaica with confidence, although the Reggae Boyz were fortunate to finish the first half with 11 men on the pitch after some rugged defending.

Je-Vaughn Watson was booked as early as the eighth minute for a foul on the USA’s Gianluca Busio.

Javain Brown was also lucky to stay on the pitch for a wild challenge on Adams in the 40th minute that the US midfielder did well to hurdle.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with neither side managing to take control of the contest.

The US received a huge let-off in the 53rd minute when a deflected cross fell into the path of Jamaica forward Reid just three yards out.

Somehow, however, the Fulham player scooped his shot over the bar and the US survived.

US coach Berhalter introduced Christian Pulisic after 66 minutes, but the Chelsea star was unable to break the deadlock.

The US received a let-off in the 84th minute when Damion Lowe headed into the net from a corner, only to see the goal disallowed for a shove on US defender Walker Zimmerman.

With Canada and the US occupying the top two places in the CONCACAF table, Mexico dropped to third with 14 points from eight games.

Panama moved into fourth spot with a 2-1 win over El Salvador, while Costa Rica are fifth after a 2-1 win over Honduras.

*Courtesy: AFP

 

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