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Mexico beats US 2-1 in qualifier

SUBSTITUTE Miguel Sabah scored in the 82nd minute for Mexico to beat the United States 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier yesterday.

Mexico's third win in six matches in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying eased the pressure in its struggle to reach next year's World Cup in South Africa.

Mexico coach Javier Aguirre showed relief.

"Today is a day to celebrate, drink a few tequilas, and then get back to work," Aguirre said. "Everybody will go to bed tonight a bit more relaxed."

Three minutes after being sent in, Sabah was alone in front of the net when he took a feed from Efrain Juarez and beat goalkeeper Tim Howard.

The United States should stay on course to qualify if it wins its two remaining home games against El Salvador and Costa Rica.

"It's a tight game and a fair score," US coach Bob Bradley said. "It's a tough loss to have so many guys work so hard and then give up a late goal. The feeling inside is one of great disappointment."

Added US striker Landon Donovan, "This wasn't a live-or-die game for us. It was for them."

Mexico has won 23 of its 24 home matches against the US.

The Americans nearly silenced the piercing drone of horns, drums and high-pitched screams at Estadio Azteca thanks to a brilliant setup by Donovan for Charlie Davies in the 9th minute. Donovan turned near midfield and threaded a pass through three Mexicans on the left side to Davies, who timed a perfect run and scored just inside the far post.

It was the first time the Americans have led at Azteca, which opened 43 years ago.

The US edge lasted only 10 minutes. Cuauhtemoc Blanco found Israel Castro, who equalized on a wicked shot off the underside of the crossbar and just over a leaping Howard.

The goal turned up the volume again for 105,000 fans in sold-out Azteca. where the crowd understood how damaging a home loss would be, particularly after Mexico won the Gold Cup last month using many of the same players. The US, however, changed almost the entire lineup that was routed 5-0 in that final.

In the 74th, tempers flared. With Davies down on the field - apparently with cramps - several Mexico players tried to pull him off the ground. That angered Benny Feilhaber, who shoved several Mexicans as Howard came out of goal to separate the sides.

Three American defenders - Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra - drew yellow cards in a game that became increasingly physical. Onyewu carried a yellow into the match, meaning he will miss the next qualifier on Sept. 5 against El Salvador in Sandy, Utah.


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