Natal: Shrugging off two contentious off-side calls in the first half, a tenacious Mexico rode on Oribe Peralta’s solitary second half strike to beat Cameroon 1-0 in a Group A World Cup match, here today.
The first half was barren despite the ball finding the back of the net thrice with Mexico forward Giovani dos Santos being the victim of two debatable off-side calls from the assistant referees.
However, persistence paid and Peralta’s 61st minute strike meant that Mexico have beaten an African side in World Cup finals for the first time.
Santos, former Barcelona playmaker, could not score a goal but he did set up one for his side. Hector Herrera sent a pass to Santos, who shot the ball between the two defenders. Cameroon custodian Charles Itandje failed to stop the powerful strike and Peralta latched on to the deflection and put the rebound in.
Mexico were clearly the dominant side from the start with their pacy attack but their defence looked shaky.
Santos was denied goals in the 10th and 31st minutes. Striker Hector Herrara sent in a perfect cross from the right and Santos, dodging his marker, volleyed home but the official ruled it off-side. A rapturous crowd fell silent.
Six minutes later, Cameroon legend Samuel Eto’o found the net from a corner but this time the linesman’s decision was beyond doubt. It was clear off-side.
Eto’o had a superb chance to put the African the side ahead but he hit wide after receiving the ball from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who broke into the Mexico box from the left before cutting a low ball back.
Suddenly, Mexico looked shaky in defence as their defence dealt with a few raids.
In the 31st minute, Santos could not believe his luck as he and Mexico were denied for the second time by the linesman’s flag again. A perfect corner was curled towards the far post, where an unmarked Santos nodded the ball in. But the joy gave way to frustration as linesman showed the flag.
Those decisions did little to appease a Mexican media which cried foul after seeing Group A opponents Brazil awarded a questionable penalty in a 3-1 win over Croatia on Thursday.
But against Cameroon, whose pre-World Cup was marred by a bitter row over bonuses, Mexico were a class apart.
After a cagey start at a sodden Estadio das Dunas, Giovani Dos Santos appeared to have opened Mexico’s account when he first-timed Miguel Layun’s delivery past Cameroon ‘keeper Charles Itandje inside the quarter hour.
But despite replays showing the Villarreal striker to be onside, the goal was chalked off by Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan.
Cameroon did not sight goal until minutes later when Eric Choupo-Moting tapped past ‘keeper Guillermo Ochoa after the ball had been headed back into the box following a corner only to be ruled off side.
Cameroon eventually settled and Stephane M’Bia flashed a header wide from Alexandre Song’s corner on 18 minutes.
The Africans spurned a far better chance when Tottenham defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto finished off a mazy run down the left to deliver for Samuel Eto’o, but the Chelsea striker saw his first-time shot flash wide.
Mexico remained a constant threat and when Choupo-Moting brought down Francisco Rodriguez to hand Mexico a free kick the Cameroon defence was caught unawares.
With the goal at their mercy, Rafael Marquez and Hector Moreno collided at the back post to see the ball go wide.
Mexico had the ball in the net for a second time when Dos Santos flashed a header past Itandje at the back post following a corner, although it too was waved off by Roldan.