Mexico sends off Cuauhtémoc Blanco with victory over Israel
MAY 28, 2014 11:29p ET
Cuauhtémoc Blanco saw his number on the board and understood the meaning immediately. He handed his armband to Mexico goalkeeper Jesús Corona and started to raise his hands into the air. He saluted the appreciative fans as they showered him with adulation on his way off the field. He finally slapped hands with Raúl Jiménez and stepped off the field as a Mexico player for the 122nd and final time.
The unquestioned star of this pep rally lasted just shy of 40 minutes before making his exit. Blanco served as the center of attention in this ultimately superfluous 3-0 victory over Israel and as the rallying point for El Tri’s final match on home soil. He relished the opportunity to play his part one last time.
Miguel Layún guaranteed Blanco would exit as a winner by lashing home twice from distance. Layún’s double either side of halftime and Marco Fabián’s rasping third allowed Mexico to curry the expected favor and embark upon its World Cup journey with a positive result at Estadio Azteca.
The morale boost provides the primary benefit from this peculiar encounter given Blanco’s presence and the absence of all four Club León players and Espanyol defender Héctor Moreno. The makeshift lineup failed to produce the sort of cadence necessary before the World Cup for most of the proceedings, but the task on this night focused more on bolstering confidence and lauding the departing Blanco one last time.
Blanco did what he could to help El Tri during his brief spell on the field. He combined with Oribe Peralta and played him into decent areas. He linked the buildup from time to time. He revealed his enduring class with a couple of clever passes over the top, though his grand opportunity to curl home a free kick just after 35 minutes fluttered well over the bar.
The memorable departure moments later allowed Mexico to shift its focus back to the task at hand and paved the way for Layún to open the scoring moments before the break. Andrés Guardado – deployed as part of a midfield trio after Héctor Herrera missed out through illness – distributed to the Club América wingback out on the left flank. Layún then cut inside his marker, floated into space and then smashed home his first international goal to place Mexico in front before the interval.
Javier Hernández replaced the active Peralta at the interval as Mexico strengthened its setup after the break. Israel opened the second stanza brightly enough to present a threat or two to the Mexican defense, but the visitors eventually hastened their own demise with more inattentiveness inside their own half to concede a second just after the hour.
Layún once again benefited from ample time and space to step into a promising area to shoot. He uncorked yet another drive from distance. Israel goalkeeper Ariel Harush managed to stick his arm out to block the stinging drive, but he watched the rebound carom and curl behind him before trickling over the line.
The revelry halted for several minutes shortly thereafter after Corona sustained an injury as he attempted to clear on the edge of his penalty area. Corona won the ball, but he sustained a blow to the back of his head from Maza Rodríguez as he completed his duties. The Cruz Azul goalkeeper stayed down for several minutes before leaving the field on the cart and yielding his position to Memo Ochoa for the final quarter of an hour.
Fabián applied a fitting cap to the celebrations by snatching a third five minutes from time. Hernandez moved cleverly to collect a throw and pulled an intriguing ball back toward the penalty spot. Fabian found himself presented with a poor clearance on the edge of the penalty area. He subsequently thumped home the third to guarantee El Tri departed for the remainder of its World Cup preparations with the party in full swing and yet another victory in hand.