Honduras’ Romell Quioto (pictured) celebrates after scoring against visiting Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on October 10, 2017, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. (Photo: Mexsport)]
SAN PEDRO SULA – Honduras (3W-4D-3L, 13 points) scored twice in a six-minute span early in the second half to rally to defeat Mexico, 3-2, and earn an intercontinental playoff berth for a spot in the 2018 FIFA World Cup at the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano on Tuesday night.
The Catrachos entered the last day of CONCACAF final-round qualifying in fifth place, but moved up to the fourth spot with a dramatic victory over the Tricolor and will face Australia in a two-legged series beginning Nov. 6 in Honduras. The second leg will be played Nov. 14 in Sydney.
Mexico (6-3-1, 21), which had already clinched first place, suffered its first defeat in 16 games of the current qualifying cycle. Costa Rica (4-4-2, 16) ended in second place, while Panama (3-4-3, 13) earned the third and final automatic spot by defeating the Ticos, 2-1.
Oribe Peralta opened the scoring for Mexico in the 17th minute, when the Club America forward settled a low cross by Raul Jimenez and fired in from the edge of the six-yard box with his left foot.
Alberth Elis leveled on 34 minutes, leaping up to latch onto an Alexander Lopez free kick and heading in off the hand of Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Two minutes after Honduras defender Maynor Figueroa cleared a Raul Jimenez effort off the line, Mexico went back ahead on a goal by Carlos Vela.
Hector Herrera lifted a ball into the box where the Real Sociedad forward split a pair of defenders before taking a half volley off the bounce to beat goalkeeper Donis Escober from close range in the 39th minute.
In the 54th minute, Elis won a battle for a ball at the edge of the 18-yard box and sent a low cross to Eddie Hernandez, who hammered a shot from 12 yards out off the crossbar. The ball ricocheted off the back of Ochoa’s head and back into the goal.
Just past the hour mark, Romell Quioto gave the host a 3-2 lead. The Houston Dynamo forward was played behind the Mexican offside trap by Jorge Claros and spun inside the 18-yard box, before firing a low shot inside the near post from 17-yards out.
Elis nearly provided Honduras a much-needed insurance goal, but he headed a Quioto cross off the crossbar in the 77th minute.
The Central American champion is looking to qualify for a third consecutive World Cup.