USA 2 // Mexico 4
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA // Mexico won the Concacaf Gold Cup last night with a 4-2 victory over the United States in a hugely entertaining final played in front of 93,000 fans.
The pulsating game was a fitting finale to a tournament boasting plenty of goals and attacking games in front of bumper attendances and Mexico, with their exciting young team, were deserved champions for a record sixth time.
Mexico had to fight back from 2-0 down after 23 minutes but with Giovani dos Santos at his sparkling best, the Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez a constant threat and Pablo Barrera causing havoc on the right wing, they ran out convincing winners.
"They're as dynamic as any team I've played against," the US forward Landon Donovan said.
"They have a few guys who can change the game in a heart beat. They have some special players and they're explosive and if you give them space they're going to make plays."
A huge Mexican contingent in the crowd at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena brought a festive atmosphere to the ageing venue for the 1994 World Cup final but the pregame "Futbol Fiesta" came to a halt soon after kick off.
The US took the lead in the eighth minute when the midfielder Michael Bradley, son of coach Bob, nodded in a Freddy Adu corner with a sublime glancing header.
The hosts were forced into an early change, though, when the full back Steve Cherundolo sustained an ankle injury and was replaced by Jonathan Bornstein, a move that had a big effect on the game with the substitute struggling on the left flank.
The switch did not initially disrupt the attacking flow of Bradley's team who kept surging forward to exploit opponents who appeared rattled by the early assault.
The approach paid off handsomely in the 24th minute when Clint Dempsey supplied Landon Donovan, the United States' all-time top scorer celebrating his return to the starting line-up with the coolest of left-foot finishes.
The Mexicans soon woke up from their evening siesta and within five minutes Pablo Barrera had raced past Bornstein onto a long ball from Javier Hernandez and driven it past a stationary Tim Howard to reduce the deficit.
Suddenly bubbling with confidence, Mexico struck the equaliser in the 36th minute when Dos Santos cut in from the right wing and hit a low shot into the area which hit the defender Clarence Goodson. Andres Guardado pounced on the deflection to squeeze a shot under the body of goalkeeper Howard.
The US left the field looking shell-shocked at the break while the body language of the Mexican players told the story of a determined comeback.
The hosts needed to get a quick grip on the game in midfield if they were to stem Mexico's attacking flow but their southern neighbours were in no mood to ease off.
Guardado fed Barrera inside the area and his low shot beat Howard and went in just inside the far post to make it 3-2.
The US came close to levelling when Clint Dempsey hit the bar with a fine strike from the edge of the area.
But the game was settled in style by Dos Santos, who was forced to dribble away from goal after failing to round Howard but produced an inch-perfect chip that evaded defender Eric Lichaj on the line and floated into the top corner.
The match-winner sparked chants of "Ole, Ole" from the stands and marked the start of a loud and long party sure to last well into the southern California night.
"We are the best team in the Cup and that's all that matters at the moment," said a beaming Hernandez.