Pizarro’s goal gives Mexico 1-0 win over Honduras

Mexico's Rodolfo Pizarro, right, strikes the ball to score against Honduras during a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal soccer match, Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) With its best players absent, Mexico has been anything but dominant in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Still, ”El Tri” is moving on to the tournament’s semifinals.

A goal by Rodolfo Pizarro just over three minutes into the game was all the offense Mexico could muster in a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over Honduras on Thursday night.

With its offense bogged down, Mexico survived several near-misses by Honduras in the second half.

”We couldn’t add to the lead, but thank goodness, the most important thing is we scored,” forward Angel Sepulveda said. ”They made it tough to get the ball in, but we played a good game. That’s how it went, but we advanced.”

The win in front of 37,404 at University of Phoenix Stadium moved Mexico into a semifinal match against Jamaica in the Rose Bowl on Sunday. It’s a rematch of the championship game of the last Gold Cup, a 3-1 Mexico victory in 2015.

Mexico and Jamaica played to a 0-0 draw this year in the Gold Cup group stage.

Jamaica beat Canada 2-1 in the first game of Thursday night’s doubleheader.

The United States plays Costa Rica on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, in the other semifinal.

The Mexican team was without many top players who had played in the recently completed Confederations Cup in Russia.

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said Wednesday that he had planned to bring some of those players to the Gold Cup but was thwarted by ”our bosses and their clubs.”

Only one of the 23 players on Mexico’s roster played in the Confederations Cup.

Osorio again was not on the sideline Thursday night. He was serving the fourth of a six-game FIFA suspension for using ”insulting words” to an official during a Confederations Cup match July 2.

Osorio watched from a suite high above the field. His suspension would end with the Gold Cup championship game if Mexico wins its semifinal.

Osorio did not talk to reporters afterward. Instead, Luis Pompilio Paez, an assistant, appeared at the news conference.

”We had the opportunity to score a second goal,” Paez said. ”We improved a lot today. I believe that we will improve in all aspects (against Jamaica), especially on offense.”

Two slick passes inside the penalty area led to Mexico’s goal in the fourth minute.

Orbelin Pineda got the ball crisply to Jesus Duenas, who passed to the right side to Pizarro, and he had nothing but open net in front of him for the shot. Pizarro and Pineda are teammates for Chivas Guadalajara, winner of the Mexican first division (Liga MX) championship in May.

It was Pizarro’s first goal of the tournament and only the second allowed by Honduras in four Gold Cup matches.

”We made a mistake and it was costly,” Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. ”This is exactly what we trained for.”

After virtually nothing in the first half, Honduras had a handful of solid chances over the span of a couple of minutes in the second half.

The first came on a free kick by Romell Quioto, who plays for the Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer. Mexico goalkeeper Jesus Corona had to make a lunging stop. Moments later, Ovidio Lanza worked the ball in for a short-range shot that was blocked by Corona.

In the 93rd minute, a shot from in front of the net by Alfredo Mejia went just to the right of the goal. It was Honduras’ last gasp.

Honduras did not score in the tournament but made the quarterfinals thanks to a forfeit by French Guiana.