Corona’s Copa magic boosts Mexico, excites fans

Mexico's Jesus Corona (#10) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Venezuela in the Copa America Centenario on June 13, 2016, in Houston. (Photo: Mexsport)

HOUSTON – He tried it once. Then again and, finally, it worked on his third attempt. Jesus Manuel Corona didn’t give up and found his way through a crowd of Venezuela defenders Monday night, scoring the goal that helped Mexico to a 1-1 draw against Venezuela in a 2016 Copa America Centenario Group C match.

Corona -- known as “Tecatito” -- sifted through a pair of Venezuela defenders, then two more and another two near the penalty spot, before he drilled a right-footed shot into the net. The magical moment saved Mexico a point in the standings to win the group on goal difference. He initiated the run from about 35-yards out, dribbled right, then to the middle and split the defense before firing. The goal sent the crowd of 67,319 at NRG Stadium into frenzy.

“I had already tried getting through there a couple of time before,” Corona said about his piercing journey into the heart of the Venezuela defense. “I wasn’t able to put the ball in the first two times, but I noticed that I could get in through there using my speed. It’s a good thing I was able to find the net there on the last try and thankfully it helped us get the tie.”

The goal claimed a point, helping Mexico avoid Argentina, the likely Group D winner, in the quarterfinals. It wasn’t easy against a Venezuela side that took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute, when Jose Manuel Velazquez struck off a scissor kick volley. The tally put pressure on Mexico, a team that has not lost in its last 22 matches, a national team record. It was also the first time Mexico trailed in a match since September 2015.

Venezuela still had a chance to re-take the lead later in the match, but a tremendous save by the other Jesus Corona – the Cruz Azul goalkeeper -- preserved the result.

“We knew we wanted to avoid having to play Argentina, but all we wanted to do was win the group regardless of who is next,” finished Corona, the Porto attacker. “Venezuela made things difficult for us but that’s why I tried to find the goal somehow.

“I don’t know if it was my best goal, but all I care is that it went in and it got us a better result. We will take it.”