How's that for a two word summary of Mexico's farcical 1-1 draw with Panama in the Gold Cup that rambled on past midnight (for me at least) owing to brawls, cards, injuries (feigned and otherwise), an incompetent ref, and fan projectiles? I don't know if anybody escapes censure here, be it...
- The Ref - An absolute joke who let a volatile match get completely away from him. Of the three reds he issued, I'm not sure any of them was warranted. Two players doing a bit a grabbing and shoving as the half comes to a close? Yellows all around and we're good, right? But no, he has to prime the barrel of explosives for the second by issuing a couple of ejections. And Panama's second red? Wouldn't you shove somebody who wasn't even in the damn game if he kicked you? And it's not like there weren't other worthy claims for red...
- The Players - Claim Mexico is dirty all you like. Go ahead and point to all the shoving and mouthing off after the play, much of it coming from Mexico's supposed "captain," Torrado. I saw a couple of surreptitious haymakers (oxymoronic, me?) that went unpunished to boot. But Panama were not blameless. They were tackling hard, ugly, and often with deliberate intent to provoke. Perez' ridiculous elbow on Ochoa with the ball clearly out of play was more deserving of red than anything else in this match.
- Aguirre - Go ahead and claim his "raised loafer" (see below) was inadvertent, but Aguirre has been around soccer balls long enough to know that you don't try to trap one rolling on the ground with your foot two feet above the damn ball.
- The Fans - Brawling. Throwing crap on the field and at the players. Small wonder the whole affair degenerated into Thunderdome.
So was there anything of interest to take from this game?
- Mexico's pattern of play was suspiciously reminiscent of somebody else in CONCACAF. Ceding possession and looking to play on the counter with quick midfielder/forwards darting into attack. Who does that remind you of? And seriously...Mexico, ceding possession? To Panama? The times, they are a-changin'.
- Panama certainly look good enough to be in the Hex, but something doesn't smell quite right. Who'd they get bumped by in qualifying? El Salvador? Before the group stage? Ouch. And dropping their Gold Cup opener to Guadeloupe? Hmmm.
- Guillermo Ochoa rose above the muck. Sure, if you watch much Spanish-language TV in this country, you're probably sick of seeing him in commercials, but he cut a pretty sympathetic figure last night, particularly when he walked the second Panamanian red-cardee off, trying to settle the fans and keep the dude from getting pelted by debris (sadly--fat chance, Memo).