An experimental Mexico side was forced to work hard for a 1-0 victory against a defensively organized Panama in Toluca.
Mexico entered the game on the back of a 3-2 extra-time victory over the United States in a 2017 Confederations Cup playoff, while its opponent arrived winless in normal time in its previous 12 fixtures. Real Sociedad attacker Carlos Vela's goal in first-half stoppage time was the difference in the international friendly Tuesday, with neither side capable of creating obvious openings.
Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo had an early scare after missing Adolfo Machado's backpass, forcing him to scramble back and clear under pressure from Raul Jimenez. But the visitors soon produced the first real chance of the game as Armando Cooper's low drive was touched around the post with a one-handed stop by Alfredo Talavera.
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Mexico appeared the more threatening in the early stages, with Jimenez's energetic running causing panic among the Panama back five. After collecting a deep pass towards the end line line, the Benfica striker did well to turn Luis Henriquez â but Jonathon dos Santos was unable to reach his raking cross.
Panama began to settle into the contest midway through the first half, with the tight, narrow pitch in Toluca favoring Hernan Gomez's side. Predominantly defensive minded, Panama -- 65th in the FIFA world rankings -- enjoyed a confidence-building period of possession before the interval.
But on the stroke of halftime, Vela finally made the breakthrough for Mexico, stabbing in from close range. An aimless ball into the box was defended poorly by Leonel Parris and Machado, eventually reaching Javier Aquino on the left end line. Aquino immediately centered the ball for Vela to poke into an unguarded net.
Vela almost grabbed his doubled his tally following the interval, but his powerful shot between two defenders skewed wide from 20 yards. There were plenty of changes for both sides in the second period, with 2015 Copa America star Jesus Corona on for Aquino the key addition from interim coach Ricardo Ferretti -- set to be replaced by Juan Carlos Osorio.
With 15 minutes to play, Panama almost snuck an equalizer, as substitute Luis Tejada bent a long-range effort just wide of Mexico's goal with Talavera at full stretch. The visitor's continued to press for an equalizer until the dying moments but once again failed to take advantage of their set-piece opportunities, with Cooper and Felipe Baloy unable to convert.