Corona duo lift Mexico to draw with Venezuela

Jesus Corona (#10) scored Mexico's only goal in a Copa America Centenario draw with Venezuela on June 13, 2016, in Houston. (Photo: Mexsport)

HOUSTON – A pair of players named Jesus Corona were key for Mexico (2W-1D-0L, 7 points, GD+4) on Monday night as the CONCACAF power battled Venezuela (2-1-0, 7, +2) to a 1-1 draw in the Copa America Centenario at NRG Stadium and clinched first place in Group C on goal difference.

The result may have ended Mexico’s 11-game winning streak, but its unbeaten run swelled to 22 games, breaking the old team record.

Both sides had previously earned quarterfinal places. It was assumed, however, that neither wanted a first knockout-round meeting with Lionel Messi’s Argentina, which only needs a draw with Bolivia on Tuesday to seal the Group D crown.

Jesus Corona, the Porto attacker, equalized for Mexico in 80th minute, when he dribbled in Messi-like fashion from 35-yards out through five defenders and beat goalkeeper Dani Hernandez with a blazing right-footer from near the penalty spot. That strike thwarted Venezuela in its bid to become the only team in the group stage not to concede.

The magical 23-year-old nearly equalized a minute earlier, but after another skillful display of ball control in the left side of the box, he curled an effort just wide of the right post.

Venezuela took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute through a brilliant strike by Jose Manuel Velazquez. The play started with Alejandro Guerra lofting a left-sided free kick diagonally into the Mexican box. Christian Santos headed back across the edge of the six-yard box, where Velazquez snapped a right-footed side volley over jumping goalkeeper Jesus Corona and under the crossbar.

Corona – the custodian – came up big for Mexico with three minutes left in normal time, somehow reacting quickly to tip Jozef Martinez’s overhead kick from the left side of box out for a corner kick.

In the 74th minute, Hernandez denied Mexico twice in quick-fire fashion. First preventing a potential own-goal by Santos, who made every effort to hold off Diego Reyes, and then flailing his body to block Hector Moreno’s immediate follow-up at the left post.

Mexico returns to action on June 18 in the quarterfinals against either Argentina, Chile or Panama, while Venezuela will play one of that trio that same day.

BUDWEISER MAN OF THE MATCH: Jesus Corona (Mexico scorer)