LUSAIL: Mexico scored twice in five second half minutes in a thrilling last-ditch bid to stay in the World Cup, beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Wednesday but agonisingly missing out on the Round-of-16 on goal difference.
In one of the most exciting group finales of the World Cup, goals from Henry Martin and Luis Chavez catapulted Mexico back into contention. But, a string of spectacular stops by Saudi goalkeeper Mohamed Al Owais and two disallowed efforts denied it the elusive third goal.
The Mexican rally took the battle for Group C down to the wire in a breathtaking second half, where at one stage it looked like the Central American side would miss out to Poland for having more yellow cards. But, Saudi striker Salem Al-Dawsari netted in stoppage time to make goal difference the decider.
Orbelin Pineda and Chavez were the engines for Mexico in a high-octane match that the Saudis struggled to get into. Pineda was the catalyst with a low shot saved, a diving header blocked and a long-range strike deflected wide of the post early on.
His team broke the deadlock two minutes after half-time when Cesar Montes’s deft back-heel from a corner found Martin, who bundled the ball over the line in a crowded goalmouth. Mexico doubled the lead on 52 minutes when Chavez’s powerful free-kick 20 metres out sailed blissfully into the corner of the goal.
Hirving Lozano found the net, but had his effort disallowed. Substitute Uriel Antuna had a late effort ruled out for offside before Al-Dawsari shattered Mexican hopes.
Result: Saudi Arabia 1 (S Al-Dawsari 90) lost to Mexico 2 (H Martin 47, L Chavez 52)