Chile provided a little of the passion the Copa America had been missing as they fought their way past Mexico 2-1 to go two points clear in Group C, Arturo Vidal bagging the winner with a fine header.
Mexico’s coach Luis Fernando Tena praised the Chileans after a stylish performance Monday.
“They have great players, they are a solid and strong team. They know each other well and this team can go a long way at the Copa.
“It’s a fair result – they were better than us,” said Tena.
With Peru having held fancied Uruguay to a 1-1 draw earlier – the fourth stalemate in the first five games of the competition – the way was clear for the Chileans to strut their stuff against a raw Mexican side after “El Tri” elected to rest any of their senior squad having just lifted the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Despite their inexperience the Mexicans, regular special guests at the South American event, started strongly and Nestor Araujo gave them a 40th-minute lead at the Del Bicentenario stadium before a 25,000 crowd in temperatures just above freezing.
Tottenham’s Giovani Dos Santos teed up the chance and Araujo needed no second bidding.
But Chile, likewise seeking their first Copa title, roared back to win with second half efforts in quick succession from Esteban Paredes and Bayer Leverkusen’s Vidal.
Vidal’s match-winner, dispatching a corner from Matias Fernandez, was just reward for a stylish Chile showing which saw Claudio Borghi’s take a giant step towards the last eight.
Araujo put the Mexicans ahead against the run of play but once Paredes had found a way through in the 67th minute Chile gave the impression a weight had been lifted from their shoulders and they pressed hard for the win which Vidal wrapped up just six minutes later.
“We believe in ourselves,” said Borghi,” while Vidal said that “the opening match is always a real humdinger so it’s great to get off to a winning start.”
Humberto Suazo missed two early chances for the Chileans, who should never have been behind but they almost paid a heavy price for his profligacy, while starlet Alexis Sanchez was somewhat overshadowed by Vidal’s spectacular winner.
Dos Santos reflected that the Mexicans had simply not been able to keep Chile at bay in the second half.
“We needed to have more of the ball. It’s a shame – but we knew it would be difficult.”
Chile will now look to cement their good start when they meet Uruguay on Friday in Mendoza while Mexico will try to make up lost ground against the Peruvians, also in Mendoza.
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