EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey, June 8 (Reuters) - Four-times CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico made hard work of beating Cuba 2-1 in a Group C match on Friday.
It took a shock goal by Cuba, known more in the region for
their baseball prowess, to shake the Mexicans out of their
lethargy at a steamy Giants Stadium.
Mexico, missing big names such as goalkeeper Oswaldo
Sanchez and Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez, started
sluggishly against a team who had only won one Gold Cup match
in four previous appearances.
The Mexicans were stunned in the 22nd minute when a
right-wing cross from Osvaldo Alonso caught the defence out of
position. Striker Reynier Alcantara had time to control the
ball with his left foot and drill a right-foot shot into the
top corner past a diving Guillermo Ochoa.
The goal sparked Mexico into action and four minutes later
a piece of individual brilliance by Nery Castillo, who plays
for Olympiakos of Greece, almost levelled the scores. But after
taking a high pass on his chest, his delicate chipped volley
came back off the bar with goalkeeper Odelin Molina beaten.
However, in the 38th minute, the Cuban defence allowed
experienced centre forward Jared Borgetti to get behind them
for a free header from a cross by Adolfo Bautista for the
equaliser. Borgetti is back playing in the Mexican league with
Cruz Azul after brief spells with English Premier League Bolton
Wanderers and in Saudi Arabia.
Mexican coach Hugo Sanchez made an inspired switch at
halftime, bringing on Jose Francisco Fonseca for Bautista.
It put the Cuban defense on the back foot and 10 minutes
into the second half, Fonseca's shot on the run was too hard
for a diving Molina to hold and Castillo was on hand to slide
home the loose ball for a 2-1 Mexico lead.
Ten minutes from the end, Fonseca nearly made it three, but
his fierce header was tipped over by Molina who was then
treated for several minutes for a back injury.
In the first match on Friday, Panama beat Honduras 3-2. The
Gold Cup is played between countries of North and Central
America and the Caribbean that make up the CONCACAF region of