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Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland

Referee: Paul Ward

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  • Luis Noriega 45' PEN
  • Pablo Barrera 85'

Mexico 2-0 Nicaragua: El Tri win opener

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Javier Aguirre could nitpick Mexico's mistakes. Instead, the country's new coach praised his young team for continuing to attack and create chances against defense-minded Nicaragua.

Aguirre just hopes star forward Carlos Vela will be back for Mexico's next Gold Cup match after leaving Sunday's 2-0 victory over Nicaragua in Group C play with a lower leg injury.

The 20-year-old Vela, also a member of English club Arsenal, was taken by ambulance to a hospital for X-rays as a precaution following a collision and foul in the fourth minute that caused him to fall awkwardly. He briefly went to the sideline, then returned to the game before leaving for good a few minutes later.

"When he fell, he got his foot stuck and got a twinge in his leg," Aguirre said. "We hope it's only a scare. We hope we confirm there's nothing broken and he can continue with us. If it's a worst-case scenario, we'll tell you guys who we're bringing to replace him."

Vela was benched for a friendly against Guatemala on June 28 as Aguirre tried different lineups. Aguirre took over for the fired Sven-Goran Eriksson in April and this was his fifth match in charge.

Luis Miguel Noriega scored his first international goal on a penalty kick in the 45th minute of his national team debut, and second-half substitute Pablo Barrera added a goal for El Tri in the 86th minute. He one-touched the ball into the net from 7 yards after a perfect cross from Alberto Medina on the right flank.

Noriega's goal came after Nicaragua midfielder Armando Reyes was whistled for a foul from behind against Israel Martinez. This marked Noriega's first official match with the national team after he was on the roster for a pair of friendlies late last month.

At least some of the Nicaraguans didn't think there was a foul.

"From our angle it was difficult to see, but the players on the field didn't think it was a foul," said coach Otoniel Olivas, who appreciated his team's fight for 90 minutes. "We know they're the power of the CONCACAF region. We don't have much support from the government to the national team. We're trying to do our best. We respect Mexico. We were not afraid at all."

The young and inexperienced Mexican team will use this tournament -- a 12-team regional championship of North American, Central American and Caribbean countries -- to try to find consistency leading up to a key World Cup qualifier Aug. 12 against the United States in Mexico City. Mexico sits in fourth place in the qualifying standings for next year's World Cup in South Africa after narrowly edging Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 in its most recent qualifier June 10.

"I'm not thinking World Cup right now at all -- Gold Cup only," Aguirre said. "Credit to the Mexican players for continuing to try to score. They had the patience to keep going for the goal and taking shots. I recognize we have to keep getting better."

Mexico controlled the game and largely kept the ball in its offensive half of the field. Speedy Giovani Dos Santos put pressure on Nicaragua all game. He dribbled through traffic and took a left-footed shot in the first minute that went wide right and had another similar attempt in the 10th minute. Mexico held an 11-1 advantage in shots in the first half and 18-6 overall.

"They defended well," Dos Santos said. "There wasn't much room to move around. At the beginning of the tournament, obviously this gives us some confidence. We have to keep getting better each game."

Mexico lost in the 2007 Gold Cup championship to the United States and each country owns four Gold Cup titles.

El Tri has a 22-0-1 record against the Americans in their homeland, but are currently 2-3 in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. The region's top three teams earn automatic spots for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Mexico's fans turned out in earnest and were the overwhelming majority among the crowd of 32,057 at the Oakland Coliseum. Fans whipped their Mexican flags and did the wave that a man known as Crazy George claims he started here nearly three decades ago during an Oakland Athletics baseball game.

Thousands of people packed the parking lot for a pregame fiesta several hours before kickoff. Festive Latin music blared from many locations and some chanted "Arriba!"

Mexico's next Gold Cup match is Thursday in Houston against Panama, which lost 2-1 to Guadeloupe in Sunday's first match.