Mexico beats New Zealand 5-1 in first-leg playoff

Mexico swept to a 5-1 victory over New Zealand in the first leg

of their intercontinental playoff on Wednesday to become the

overwhelming favorite for a place at next year’s World Cup

finals.

Paul Aguilar put Mexico ahead in the 32nd minute and Raul

Jimenez made 2-0 before the break. Oribe Peralta added two more in

the second half before Rafael Marquez scored in the 84th and Chris

James grabbed a consolation goal for New Zealand a minute

later.

Mexico, which was lucky to reach the playoff, now just needs to

finish the job in the second leg next Wednesday in Wellington, New

Zealand.

”We’re going to go there like the score is 0-0, like we need a

winning goal,” Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said.

Mexico scored only seven goals in 10 qualifying games, but broke

through under new coach Herrera. Herrera, the fourth Mexico coach

in two months, used only players based in the national league,

omitting stars like Javier Hernandez of Manchester United.

That focus on domestic league players was partly to deal with

Mexico City’s altitude of 2,240 meters (7,350 feet), which seemed

to fatigue New Zealand.

Herrera, who also coaches Mexican club America, was hired for

only the two playoff matches, declined to speculate about his

future.

”I am the coach for two games, and I won an important one,”

Herrera said. ”Afterward they (Mexican football federation) will

decide and we hope they make the right decision. One could put

together a sensational team.”

Mexico finished behind the United States, Costa Rica and

Honduras in CONCACAF qualifying, with those three advancing

automatically to Brazil. Mexico only secured fourth place after the

United States scored two late goals last month to defeat Panama –

which was winning at the time and would have reached the

playoff.

Aguilar broke the deadlock by chipping in from 10 meters (yards)

after keeper Glen Moss was caught off his line and Jimenez found

the net eight minutes later with a close-range header after

threatening to score several times.

Only Moss, who made several acrobatic saves, kept Mexico from

scoring more in the first half at Azteca stadium.

Moss punched away a shot from Jimenez in the 18th, which nearly

crossed the line. In the 24th, Francisco Rodriguez hit the

crossbar, and in the 27th Moss stopped Jimenez’s shot from

point-blank range.

Peralta put the match beyond New Zealand’s reach just three

minutes after the re-start, collecting a cross from the left and

slotting home from six meters (yards), and then scored his second

with an 80th-minute header. Marquez then nodded home Mexico’s

fifth, before James scored with a volley off the post.

It was the second one-sided victory of the day. Earlier, Uruguay

hammered Jordan 5-0 away in another intercontinental playoff for

next year’s World Cup in Brazil.