Mexico 2 Bermuda 1
Bermuda’s hopes of retaining their Concacaf Nations League A status were cruelly dashed as Uriel Antuna scored a dramatic late goal to condemn a spirited Bermuda to relegation to League B.
Heading into the match Bermuda were faced with the scenario of knowing only the minimum of a draw being enough to guarantee finishing above Panama in the three-team group and avoid relegation.
Their hopes of pulling off a historic result against the Gold Cup champions were boosted as captain Danté Leverock headed Kyle Lightbourne’s side ahead in the tenth minute.
However, Mexico levelled midway through the half through Sebastian Cordova’s brilliant curling effort and just as the required result looked all but secured, Antuna assumed the villain rule, receiving the ball inside the area before calmly slotting past the advancing Dale Eve to snatch victory for the home side and break Bermudian hearts in the cruelest possible fashion.
Lightbourne opted for a predominantly defensive 4-5-1 line-up with Roger Lee being utilised in the midfield, just as he was the 2-0 away victory at Panama.
However, with the likes of Osagi Bascome and Reggie Lambe alongside Lee, and Zeiko Lewis and Justin Donawa on the wings, behind Nahki Wells, Lightbourne still had offensive flair at his disposal.
There was also a competitive debut for Eusebio Blankendal at left back.
Unsurprisingly, it was the home side who settled into their rhythm quickest and they had an early shout for a penalty in the sixth minute when Jose Macias tumbled inside the area under a challenge from Lewis. However, referee Ismael Cornejo waved away the protests.
Mexico came close to breaking the deadlock moments later as an inviting cross from the left from Orbelín Pineda was headed wide by Uriel Antuna when well placed. At the other end Brangman’s deep cross almost caught goalkeeper Hugo González off guard as it dipped just over the far top corner.
Incredibly, it was Bermuda who broke the deadlock as a teasing corner from Bascome found Leverock, who had escaped his marker to glance his header beyond the reach of the helpless González.
The home came close to levelling as Eve brilliantly parried Sebastian Cordova’s free kick from the edge of the area, with José Macías’s rebound diverted over and away from danger.
Eve was called into action in the 21st minute, remaining alert to hold on to a Orbelín Pineda strike from the edge of the area.
Four minutes later, an incisive counter attack by Wells and Lewis, saw the latter through on goal, only to be prevented by a last-ditch tackle by Romo.
Mexico levelled through an unstoppable strike from Cordova, who curled a left-footed effort beyond Eve and into the top right corner from 25 yards.
Mexico took control of the match and should have edged in front in the 37th minute as intricate down the right-hand side saw Jorge Sánchez with time to lift his head on the right and pick out Macías, only for the striker to guide the ball wide of the near post. Mexico should have gone ahead in the 60th minute but Edson Álvarez could only head Cordova’s dangerous corner harmlessly over.
From the resulting goal kick Bermuda broke with Wells wriggling his way into the area. His pull back found Donawa only for his effort to be brilliantly blocked by Romo.
Mexico coach Gerado Martino turned to Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raúl Jiménez to find the goal the home crowd so desperately craved with 20 minutes remaining.
The substitution almost paid dividends as Jiménez stooped to get on to the end of Roberto Alvarado’s cross, only for Eve to brilliantly deny the striker.
Wells was then presented with the opportunity. Racing onto a through ball the QPR striker, could only drag his left-footed effort wide of the right post.
Bermuda’s agonising wait for the final whistle was prolonged as the fourth official indicated an additional five minutes of time.
With only two minutes remaining, Bermuda’s hearts were broken as Antuna collected a chipped through ball into the area, before slotting past the advancing Eve.
There was just time for Alvarado to curl a free kick over the bar as Mexico held on for the dramatic victory, condemning Bermuda to relegation.to League B.
Mexico: Cordova 27, Antuna 90+3
Bermuda: Leverock, 10
Mexico (5-3-2): H Gonzalez — J Sanchez, E Alvarez, L Romo, C Calderon, H Moreno — O Pineda (sub: R Alvarado, 64min), S Cordova, E Aguirre (sub: R Pizarro, 64) — J Macaias (sub: R Jiminez, 70), U Antuna. Substitutes not used: C Montes, C Gomez, S Roca, G Ocho, E Guitierrez, J Vasquez, L Rodriguez, G Sepulveda, J Gallardo.
Bermuda (4-5-1): D Eve — E Blankendal, J Bather, D Leverock D Brangman — R Lee, O Bascome (sub: W Clemons, 65), R Lambe, Z Lewis (sub: M Butterfield, 70), J Donawa (sub: L Simmons, 83) — N Wells. Substitutes not used: C Basden, P Douglas, C Robinson, L Evans, Q Hunt. Booked: Wells.
Referee: I Cornejo (El Salvador).
• Sam Murley travelled to Toluca, Mexico, thanks to sponsorship from Living Legends @living.legends.bda