Mexico made a winning start to their CONCACAF Gold Cup title defence after overpowering El Salvador 3-1 in their Group C opener.
The defending champions claimed their seventh Gold Cup crown in 2015 and they took a step towards another trophy thanks to first international goals from Hedgardo Marin and Orbelin Pineda, and Elias Hernandez's effort, in San Diego on Sunday.
With Mexico's regular stars afforded a break following the Confederations Cup in Russia, domestic-based players – aside from Erick Torres who plays in the United States – have been given a chance to shine in the country's bid for back-to-back Gold Cups.
And they stepped up, overcoming a spirited challenge from minnows El Salvador, who cancelled out Marin's eighth-minute opener within two minutes thanks to Nelson Bonilla at Qualcomm Stadium, but Elias Hernandez put Mexico ahead again prior to half-time.
GOL México, Hedgardo MARIN No. 18 | July 10, 2017
Pineda came off the bench and sealed the points in the 55th minute as Mexico extended their unbeaten run against El Salvador to seven games – dating back to 2009.
The Mexicans – with head coach Juan Carlos Osorio watching from the stands as he served the first of a six-match suspension for insulting language directed towards match officials at the Confederations Cup – made five changes to the 'Gold Cup' team that beat Paraguay in a friendly earlier this month. Hugo Ayala, Edson Alvarez, Ricardo Reyes, Jorge Hernandez and Angel Sepulveda came in for Jair Pereira, Jesus Molina, Pineda, Alan Pulido and Luis Rodriguez.
El Salvador – without a Gold Cup win since 2013 amid a run of four winless games at the tournament – were headlined by captain Andres Flores, Darwin Ceren and Bonilla, and the Mexicans did not have it all their own way, despite starting brightly in California.
Marin broke the deadlock in the eighth minute courtesy of a towering header at the back post, which left Benji Villalobos with little chance.
GOL El Salvador, Nelson BONILLA No. 18 | July 10, 2017
However, El Salvador responded almost immediately. Bonilla made a great darting run inside the penalty area and slotted the ball across Jose Corona.
El Salvador should have made it 2-1 in the 27th minute. Corona collected the ball and tried to distribute it quickly by hand but miscommunication almost gifted the El Salvadorians the lead, though Gerson Mayen's chipped effort was just too high.
GOL México, Elias HERNÁNDEZ No. 11 | July 10, 2017
Corona's error sparked Mexico into action as they retook the lead approaching the half-hour mark. Jesus Gallardo whipped in a floating cross and Elias Hernandez – unmarked at the back post – volleyed the ball into the net.
Mexico had an opportunity to double their lead when Gallardo attempted to slot the ball underneath Villalobos but the keeper got down well to deny the Pumas UNAM forward.
GOL México, Orbelín PINEDA No. 7 | July 10, 2017
But the Mexicans were not to be denied 10 minutes into second half as Elias Hernandez's cross somehow made it to Pineda at the back post and the substitute made no mistake from an acute angle.
If not for Villalobos, it could have been worse for El Salvador as the floodgates threatened to open – the Aguilla man thwarting Mexico despite clearly struggling with a knee problem, though he eventually succumbed to injury.
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