Canada freezes out Mexico, assumes 1st place in World Cup qualifying
Canada is closing in on a 2022 World Cup berth.
Cyle Larin scored on both sides of halftime Tuesday, powering the Canadians to a feisty 2-1 win over continental heavyweight Mexico in snowy Edmonton. The victory is Canada's first over El Tri in a World Cup qualifier since 1976.
John Herdman's side now holds top spot in the "Octagonal" standings through eight matches in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Mexico, meanwhile, drops to third after back-to-back defeats; a late goal from Hector Herrera nearly inspired a frantic comeback at Commonwealth Stadium, but Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan pulled off a last-gasp save on the goal line to preserve the victory for the host nation.
Tuesday's affair - played in subzero temperatures - got off to a tepid, disjointed start. Neither side authored any chances of note until the stroke of halftime when Alistair Johnston fired a long-distance effort that Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa redirected to Larin; the Besiktas striker slotted the ball home from close range.
Larin doubled the lead in the 52nd minute, taking advantage of some shoddy Mexican marking inside the penalty area and connecting with a free-kick from Stephen Eustaquio. Larin's 22nd international goal moved him into a tie with Dwayne De Rosario for top spot on the team's all-time scoring chart.
The tally sparked wild celebrations, with Sam Adekugbe launching himself into the mound of snow shoveled off the pitch before the match.
Despite chaotic late pressure from Mexico - including Herrera's header that cut the 2-0 advantage in half - Canada held on to assume top spot with six matches remaining in CONCACAF qualifying.
The top three teams after 14 qualifying games earn automatic berths in next year's World Cup in Qatar. The fourth-place team will enter an intercontinental playoff. The next round of fixtures will take place in January.
Canada is looking to reach the men's tournament for the second time in its history and first since 1986.