A record-tying night from Cyle Larin not only propelled Canada to a 2-1 win over Mexico on Tuesday at Commonwealth Stadium, but put the Canadians at the top of their CONCACAF World Cup group.
That’s right. As the eight remaining teams in CONCACAF each completed the eighth of their 14-game schedules in the Octagon, Canada (4-0-4), a country that hasn’t been to a World Cup since 1986, is tops. A point up on the Americans. Two points up on the Mexicans and Panamanians. The top three qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place team gets a final shot to qualify via an intercontinental playoff.
Larin’s two-goal performance gave him a total of 22 for the national side, tying Dwayne De Rosario as the top Canadian men’s goal-scorer in history.
Just before the end of the first half, a skipping shot from Canadian defender Alistair Johnston could only be parried by Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa. The ball fell right into the path of Larin, who made no mistake.
WATCH | Larin ties De Rosario’s goal record as Canada tops Mexico:
Johnston’s shot looked to accelerate after it took a wicked hop on the artificial turf, an effect of a slick, cold ball on a hardened playing surface. According to Environment Canada, the game time temperature was at — 9 C, with a wind chill of — 14 C. If there was a moment that justified Canada Soccer’s decision to stage this game in Edmonton on a November night, that was it.
“The road games are really tough, everyone is going to use their terrains to their advantage,” Canadian coach John Herdman said. “The games bring out the Canadian in our players. They all grew up on plastic pitch.”
Larin, who sat out Friday’s win over Costa Rica with a stomach bug, struck again seven minutes into the second half, as he side-footed home an inch-perfect cross from Stephen Eustaquio, leaving Ochoa flailing on the goal line.
Herdman said Larin had been so sick at the start of camp he “hadn’t eaten in two days.”
The Mexicans made it close with an 89th-minute goal from the head of substitute Hector Herrera.
And then, in five minutes of added time, they came at the Canadians in waves, forcing ‘keeper Milan Borjan into two goal-line saves.
WATCH | Borjan seals Canada’s win over Mexico with key stops:
“That was the longest six minutes of my bloody life,” Herdman said. “Thank goodness for Milan Borjan and all the other players who put their bodies on the line.”
Larin’s opener punctuated what was a chippy first half from both teams. Right after the opening kickoff, a Canadian defender flattened Mexican star winger Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar ruled it a legal challenge, but Lozano was down on the turf for several minutes.
The game then transformed into a maelstrom of fouls — a total of 23 in the first half, with 13 of them called on the Mexicans.
Escobar also showed yellow cards to both teams’ benches in the first 45.
WATCH | Measuring Canada’s home-field advantage for WC qualifiers in Edmonton:
But the Mexicans were held to zero attempts on target. It wasn’t until the dying moments of the team, down two goals, that the visitors came alive.
By the end of the match, the foul count was 21-16, Mexico.
The crowd was announced at 44,212 — despite the fact Canada Soccer announced on Monday that more than 50,000 tickets were sold. But Edmonton was hit with heavy snow Monday and through the day Tuesday, leading to no-shows. A total of 48,806 showed up for Friday’s 1-0 triumph over Costa Rica, on a calm 1 C evening.
Crews worked furiously before the game, repainting the field lines and shovelling snow that had accumulated near the pitch.
WATCH | Prime Minister visits Canadian men’s soccer team ahead of Mexico match:
Antonio missile helps Jamaica draw U.S.
Tim Weah’s 11th-minute goal was matched by Michail Antonio’s spectacular 34-yard strike in the 22nd minute, leaving the United States with a 1-1 draw against Jamaica in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night.
Coming off Friday’s 2-0 home win against Mexico, the U.S. was looking to move into strong position to reach the World Cup as qualifying passed the halfway point. But a point on the road still left the Americans on track to claim one of three spots from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
WATCH | Antonio’s spectacular strike helps Jamaica draw vs. United States:
The U.S., which survived a disallowed Jamaican goal in the 84th minute, has 15 points going into its final six qualifiers and sits alone in second place — one point ahead of Mexico.
Loud reggae played on speakers during warmups before a crowd of 1,100 at 35,000-seat Independence Park, known as The Office, where a statue of Bob Marley sits outside. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was Jamaica’s first home game with fans since October 2019.
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