Denver (AFP) – Mexico booked their place in the CONCACAF Nations League final on Thursday after a stormy victory over Costa Rica that saw play briefly halted following homophobic chants by fans.
Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was Mexico’s hero, saving Allan Cruz’s spot kick to give the favourites a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win after the game finished deadlocked at 0-0 after 90 minutes.
But the game at Denver’s Mile High Stadium was marred by homophobic chants throughout, which came despite regional federation CONCACAF vowing to crack down on the abuse earlier this week.
Tournament officials later revealed several fans had been ejected by stadium security in the first half after warnings on the public address system over the “discriminatory language”.
The game was then halted for three minutes by match officials during stoppage time after the chants persisted.
Mexico has been been repeatedly sanctioned over the years by regional and global football bodies for a chant by fans of the national team which is seen as homophobic.
Mexico will play the United States in Sunday’s final after a late goal from Jordan Siebatcheu secured a 1-0 win over Honduras in Thursday’s earlier semi-final.
Switzerland-based striker Siebatcheu headed home Weston McKennie’s flick in the 89th minute to settle a scrappy game.
Gregg Berhalter’s US team, however, were made to sweat against a physical Honduras outfit who appeared to be playing for penalties late in the game.
A US squad featuring mostly Europe-based players — including Chelsea star Christian Pulisic, Juventus midfielder McKennie and Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen — dominated for long periods.
But after a bright opening when the Americans created a string of chances, Berhalter’s side faded during a second half marred by stoppages and a flurry of yellow cards.
Borussia Dortmund teenager Gio Reyna had two chances early on, and should have scored on 10 minutes after deft footwork took him into space inside the Honduras area. But Reyna dragged his shot wide.
At the other end, Steffen was pressed into action in the 11th minute, saving Honduras striker Anthony Lozano’s long-range shot.
An unmarked McKennie headed over from a corner in the 13th minute and then saw a shot deflected wide soon afterwards.
Honduras went close to taking the lead on 27 minutes, when Alberth Elis’s angled header beat Steffen only to be cleared off the line by a desperate dive from US striker Josh Sargent.
Sargent might have given the US the lead moments later, but was unable to divert Antonee Robinson’s cross wide of Honduras goalkeeper Luis Lopez.
The game looked to be heading towards a penalty shoot-out after a second half marked by fouls, but the US breakthrough came with a minute left on the clock.
Center-back John Brooks advanced on the Honduras penalty area and chipped a pass to the right flank.
McKennie met the ball with a first time headed cross, and substitute Brenden Aaronson’s decoy run created space for Siebatcheu, who headed past Lopez from close range.
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