Jimenez strike seals semifinal place for Mexico

ATLANTA – Raul Jimenez’s goal late in the second half proved to the difference as Mexico defeated Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0 in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal in front of 54,229 at the Georgia Dome Saturday evening. It was a record crowd for soccer at the stadium.

Mexico, the two-time defending champion, advances to play Panama on Wednesday in the semifinals at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It will be rematch of their opening day encounter that the Panamanians won, 2-1.

El Tri had won both of its previous Gold Cup encounters with the Soca Warriors by four goals apiece, but found it more difficult on this occasion to get the ball goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams.

It took until six minutes from full time before Jimenez was able to break through, getting enough of Miguel Layun’s low cross to put it into the side netting from eight meters.

The duo nearly connected for an insurance goal minutes later, but Jimenez was unable to latch on to the cross.

Playing in its first Gold Cup quarterfinal since 2000, Trinidad had the first dangerous chance, when Kenwyne Jones latched onto a long ball and delivered a blast that deflected out for a corner kick in the eighth minute.

One minute later, Jonathan Orozco was forced to make a one-handed diving save on Andre Boucaud’s rocket from the top of the 18-yard box. On the ensuing corner, Seon Power’s flicked header went just wide.

After having an early goal called back because of offside, El Tri had finally broken through in the 23rd minute.  Carlos Pena’s effort from 20 meters, though, hit off the outside netting.

Mexico continued to push forward and was the more dangerous team in the attacking third. Three minutes later, Jimenez bounced his diving header wide of the net from 12 meters.

Four minutes before the break, Luis Montes struck his free kick into Williams from 24 meters.

Jimenez put a shot on target in the 55th minute, but he put his low attempt from 16 meters off the left post.

The Soca Warriors countered in the 78th minute. Jones latched onto Keon Daniel’s driven cross, only to see his header from 12 meters fly just wide of its mark.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation time, Power’s dangerous first-time volley from distance deflected inside the box before it could get to Orozco.