PHILADELPHIA: Mexico shook off two controversy-laden triumphs to defeat Jamaica 3-1 in Sunday’s Gold Cup finals (Monday in Manila), hoisting a record seventh trophy and shrugging off any notion of a tainted title.
Mexican captain Andres Guardado scored in the 31st minute, Jesus Corona added another in the 47th and Oribe Peralta scored in the 61st as two defensive blunders by Michael Hector doomed Jamaica’s championship dream in the biennial North American regional football tournament.
“We’re very happy,” Mexico manager Miguel Herrera said. “We dominated the ball. We got the rhythm we wanted and controlled the play. It’s a great satisfaction for all of us.”
Jamaica, whose lone goal came from substitute Darren Mattocks in the 79th minute, settled for a runner-up finish after becoming the first Caribbean squad to reach the Gold Cup final, thanks to a 2-1 upset of the United States in the semi-finals. The best prior “Reggae Boyz” showing was a share of third in 1993.
“For me this is not silver. For me this is gold,” Jamaica manager Winfried Schaefer said. “Nobody gave us a shot. This team played all its matches over its head. I’m very proud to coach this team. Jamaica should be very proud.”
Guardado, named Golden Ball winner as the tournament’s top player, became the first player to score in three Gold Cup finals. Guardado, who has 10 career Gold Cup goals, also scored in a 2007 finals loss to the USA and a 2011 victory over the Americans.
Mexico benefitted from late foul calls that set up penalty goals in wins over Costa Rica in the quarter-finals and Panama in the semi-finals, both losers asking the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Associations Football (CONCACAF) to investigate the calls.
CONCACAF, with several former officials charged in the US federal bribery scandal involving FIFA, admitted referee mistakes but no darker conspiracy.
Asked if he worried corruption might one day be uncovered to blemish the title run, Herrera said, “Not really agreeing with that. There were errors on the field, with the referees. They made very grave errors (but) to judge of what you’re speaking, we would have to prove something.
“On the field, we’re still doing what we can,” he added. “We would love everything to be roses, but there are always difficulties and we have to deal with them.”
Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar was not an issue in the final, staged before 68,930 spectators at the home stadium of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles.
“Best referee I saw in the tournament,” Schaefer said. “Helped CONCACAF come back on the carpet very good.”
Mexico’s ‘Killer goal’
“El Tricolores” were powered by the Gold Cup’s most productive attack and humbled a Jamaican side that had been the event’s top defenders, surrendering only three goals in five prior matches.
Guardado’s left-foot volley of a Paul Aguilar cross put Mexico on top for good and Corona scored two minutes into the second half by stealing the ball from Hector and blasting it between defender Wes Morgan’s legs and inside the far post.
“This goal was a killer goal,” Schaefer said.
Peralta scored after Hector flubbed a clearance attempt, the ball landing at his feet from point blank range.
Schaefer took a dig at West Indies cricket dominating attention in Jamaica while his team made its historic run, players giving up their entire club off-seasons to play in Copa America and the Gold Cup.
“I want to send a message to the people who don’t understand what our players are doing for their country,” Schaefer said. “I don’t want to hear about ‘bowlers.”