In front of a loud and rowdy sold-out crowd of 80,108 at Cowboys Stadium, defending CONCACAF Gold Cup champions Mexico defeated El Salvador 5-0 as Manchester United star Javier “Chicharito” Hernández scored a hat trick on opening night.
On the strength of an avalanche of four second-half goals registered in the span of 20 minutes, Mexico matched the 5-0 result that Costa Rica registered against Cuba in the first match of the doubleheader. The identical results leave Mexico and Costa Rica as joint leaders of Group A after the first of three matches in group play.
Entering the 2011 edition of the Gold Cup, El Tri had scored more goals in the regional tournament (103) than any other team and on Sunday night they added five more to that total, picking up where they left off in 2009 when they routed the USA 5-0 in the Gold Cup final.
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El Salvador challenged Mexico for the game’s first 50 minutes, limiting their opponents’ opportunities while creating a handful of dangerous ones for themselves. However, los Cuscatlecos could not convert on any of their chances.
With the pressure mounting, Mexico needed a stroke of fortune to finally break through, as Efraín Juárez converted a cross from teammate and winger Giovani dos Santos. His first shot was blocked by El Salvador goalkeeper Miguel Montes, only for the rebound to fall right on Juárez’s head for the opening goal on 55 minutes.
The second goal came just three minutes later as second-half substitute Aldo de Nigris found the back of the net within a minute of coming into the match. He ran onto his own pass in the El Salvador penalty area, outrunning the defenders to the ball before slotting past Montes for a commanding 2-0 lead.
With El Salvador reeling to recover the ball from Mexico’s grasp midway in the second half, the 23-year-old “Chicharito” Hernández scored twice more to seal the win. First he bounced home a header off a cross from Andrés Guardado and then took another Guardardo feed, shielded a defender and sent the ball into the back of the net from close range.
The Mexican national team idol completed the scoring and his hat trick with a penalty kick after El Salvador’s Marvin González was shown red for taking down Hernández as he broke in on goal. Chicharito stepped up himself and chipped a ball down the center of the goal to put the final exclamation mark on the 5-0 win.
New York Red Bulls defender Rafael Márquez came on as a second-half substitute for Mexico with the result already in hand while Real Salt Lake forward Arturo Alvarez missed the match for El Salvador due to injury. Portland Timbers right back Steve Purdy was available but did not come into the match for El Salvador.
Both teams now travel to Charlotte, N.C., for games at Bank of American Stadium on Thursday evening. Costa Rica face El Salvador and Mexico play Cuba following the first game.