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Chucky Lozano gives Mexico World Cup win over Germany
June 18, 2018, 12:23 am
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The deck was stacked against Mexico in its World Cup opener. Or at least it was supposed to be.

Hirving Lozano's first-half goal stood up, and Mexico defended against waves of German pressure, defeating the defending World Cup champion 1-0 in front of a pro-El Tri crowd at Moscow's Luzhiki Stadium on Sunday. Mexico had numerous opportunities to pad its lead, but it didn't matter, as Guillermo Ochoa was a rock in goal, and Mexico defended to perfection in denying Jogi Lows side and claiming all three points.

Both teams had strong support in Moscow, but Mexico's was clearly apparent during the national anthems, with the pro-El Tri crowd belting out theirs, much to the delight of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

Mexico had a great chance to score less than 90 seconds in. Chicharito played Lozano into the box on the left channel, and the PSV winger looked to have a clear close-range look until Jerome Boateng came up with a well-timed slide tackle to block the chance.

On the ensuing corner kick, a loose ball scramble in front of goal was eventually claimed by Neuer, with Germany uncharacteristically shaky as the match began.

Hector Herrera then tested Neuer at the 10-minute mark with a long-range attempt, but the goalkeeper, who endured a lengthy injury layoff this season with Bayern Munich, made a clean diving catch.

Neuer was called upon again a few minutes later, after a long free kick was headed toward the frame, only for the goalkeeper to get down and make the stop.

Neuer's counterpart, Ochoa, then took his turn making a pair of saves, including on a turn-and-fire from Werner in the 20th minute. He came up with another clean stop on Kroos, who fired a left-footed rocket from 20-yards after Mexico had turned the ball over in its own third.

Mexico got its deserved lead in the 35th minute. El Tri completed a beautiful counterattack, with Herrera sparking the counter in the center of the park and finding Chicharito. The Mexico all-time leading scorer slipped a pass to a streaking Lozano on the right channel, where the PSV winger cut back to his right foot and beat Neuer low and inside the near post.

Germany nearly struck moments later, with Kroos pounding the crossbar on a free kick, with an acrobatic Ochoa appearing to tip it off the bar to preserve Mexico's lead.

Germany went in search of the equalizer right out of the halftime locker room, and its best chance came nine minutes in, when Julian Draxler's chance by the left post was blocked by Carlos Salcedo, who steered the shot just wide of the post. 

Mexico blew a chance to double its lead in the 57th minute. Chicharito and Carlos Vela wound up with a 2-on-1 on the counter, but the former's pass wasn't quite where it needed to be for the LAFC star, and the attack fizzled out.

Two German defenders nearly combined for an equalizer in the 65th minute, when Boateng chipped a ball forward for Joshua Kimmich, who attempted an audacious overhead kick from inside the box–a la Gareth Bale in the Champions League final–but put it just high of Ochoa's crossbar.

Germany knocked again in the 68th, when a cross from the right side was flicked on by Hummels toward Werner at the near post, but his first-time volley from in close sailed over the bar.

With Germany continuing to pressure, Chicharito nearly gave Mexico the insurance it needed in the 69th minute. Miguel Layun played him through behind Hummels, and with the Bayern Munich center back lurking from behind, Chicharito went down in the box, but no penalty was given. VAR was not consulted, either, despite a play that could have been up for debate.

History was made in the 74th minute, when Rafa Marquez came off the bench as Mexico's final substitute. The 39-year-old captain tied a record (with Mexico's Antonio Carbajal and Germany's Lothar Matthaus) by appearing in his fifth World Cup for El Tri, and was called upon to help shut the door on Germany's attack.

Marquez helped spark a counterattack in the 78th minute, springing Layun forward on a one-man foray. His blast from distance whizzed over the crossbar, though, leaving Mexico with its one-goal advantage. Layun had another chance in the 82nd, firing a 20-yard blast narrowly wide of the far upper 90.

Germany pushed and pushed for the equalizer, and it nearly came in sensational fashion. A wild, chaotic sequence in the Mexico final third wound up with the ball bouncing out about 22 yards from goal. Julian Brandt, off the bench, struck a perfectly hit ball with his right the nicked the outside of the post, letting Mexico off by inches.

When the final whistle blew, Mexico players reacted with unbridled jubilation, with Chicharito in tears. With three points in tow, Mexico turns its attention to Sweden and South Korea in its remaining Group D games.

Here are the rosters for both nations:

GERMANY

Goalkeepers: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Kevin Trapp (Paris Saint-Germain)

Defenders: Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich), Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Antonio Ruediger (Chelsea), Niklas Suele (Bayern Munich), Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin), Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Midfielders: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Julian Draxler (Paris Saint-Germain), Ilkay Gundogan (Manchester City), Leon Goretzka (Schalke), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen)

Forwards: Mario Gomez (Stuttgart), Timo Werner (Leipzig)

Manager: Jogi Low

MEXICO

Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Guillermo Ochoa (Standard Liege), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)

Defenders: Edson Alvarez (America), Hugo Ayala (Tigres), Jesus Gallardo (Pumas), Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Miguel Layun (Sevilla), Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Midfielders: Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), Erick Gutierrez (Pachuca), Hector Herrera (Porto), Rafa Marquez (Atlas)

Forwards: Javier Aquino (Tigres), Jesus Corona (Porto), Javier Hernandez (West Ham United), Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Oribe Peralta (Club America), Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Manager: Juan Carlos Osorio

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