It was a Luis Suarez masterclass as the Barcelona star scored twice and set up another to inspire Uruguay’s crushing 4-1 win over Mexico in Houston.
In an international friendly between the World Cup quarter-finalists and last-16 participants, Uruguay came out on top thanks to all-time leading scorer Suarez’s first-half brace on Friday.
Suarez scored a free-kick and converted a ‘panenka’ penalty at NRG Stadium, where Jose Gimenez’s 22nd-minute opener was cancelled out by Mexico’s Raul Jimenez spot-kick within two minutes.
Gaston Pereiro sealed the rout for Uruguay – who were eliminated by eventual champions France in the World Cup quarters – after Suarez turned provider in sensational fashion 15 minutes into the second half, while Jimenez had a penalty saved by Fernando Muslera during the closing stages.
There was no room for star trio Javier Hernandez, Andres Guardado or Hector Herrera in the Mexico squad as caretaker boss Ricardo Ferretti – stepping in following Juan Carlo Osorio’s exit after the country’s round-of-16 exit to Brazil – opted for youth, with defender Jesus Angulo handed his debut.
Oscar Tabarez was not in the dugout for Uruguay as he mulls over his future, with Fabian Coito – a member of the 71-year-old’s backroom staff – and he fielded a strong XI, which included Suarez, Diego Godin, Lucas Torreira, Rodrigo Bentancur and Matias Vecino.
Mexico enjoyed a decent start to the match but they found themselves trailing after some poor defending from a corner in the 22nd minute, Gimenez breaking the deadlock with a bullet header from Jonathan Urretaviscaya’s cross.
Uruguay’s lead was short-lived, however, after Hirving Lozano drew a foul from Bentancur following a driving run into the penalty area – Mexico forward Jimenez making no mistake from the spot as he finished emphatically.
The shoot-out continued eight minutes later when Suarez – who scored twice in Barcelona’s rout of Huesca last time out – restored Uruguay’s lead with a free-kick, which found its way past Guillermo Ochoa at his near post.
Uruguay should have scored a third in the 36th minute but Inter’s Vecino fired a shot straight at Ochoa from point-blank rage but the Mexico goalkeeper was helpless to stop Suarez.
Suarez struck again five minutes before half-time, converting a cheeky penalty past Ochoa to take his international tally to 55 goals after the Uruguay forward was fouled by debutant Angulo, and he added an assist to his display when he picked out Pereiro with a terrific piece of skill.
Lozano almost pulled a goal back but his glancing header was somehow pushed away by Muslera, who then dived low to stop Jimenez’s penalty with 16 minutes remaining.
What it means: Tabarez should extend tenure
Long-serving boss Tabarez is reportedly weighing up whether to continue following the World Cup and based on Friday’s performance, there is evidence to suggest he has the players to challenge for Copa America and World Cup honours.
Pat on the back: Magical Suarez
Suarez’s form has been in question at domestic level but the former Liverpool man put on a show in the United States. If his two goals were not enough, Suarez’s unbelievable assist to set up Pereiro was the icing on the cake.
Boot up the backside: Mexico’s defence
Mexico were a handful in attack as always but their defence were completely overrun against Uruguay, especially from set-pieces – debutant Angulo enduring a tough first outing.
Mexico are back in action against CONCACAF rivals the United States on Tuesday, while Uruguay will not play again until October.