It looks like Mexico does need Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez after all.
"Chicharito" jumped on a defensive gaffe by Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 92nd minute Thursday night, scoring on a right-footed shot from close range to lift Mexico to a 2-1 win in the exhibition. It was one of the lone highlights for El Tri, which seemed caught off-guard most of the night by a smooth, efficient Bosnian team.
"Of course it was important," Hernandez said. "We want to win every game, it doesn't matter if it's a friendly or not."
Hernandez, who came in as a substitute in the 61st minute, had blown two chances to score in the 80th minute, including a shot from close range that Bosnia's Senad Lulic barely managed to clear off the line. But Bosnia wasn't nearly as sharp just before the whistle.
Trying to get the ball out of a scrum in front of the goal, Stojan Vranjes misplayed it with an ill-advised bicycle kick and the ball rolled right to Chicharito. The Manchester United striker stepped in front of Bosnia's Boris Pandza and poked the ball into the net with his right foot, leaving Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic no chance to block it.
Mexico fans, who seemed almost subdued by the cold and rain that fell throughout most of the game, erupted in cheers as Chicharito was mobbed by his teammates.
"I think it's rare that this way someone wins the game," Bosnia coach Safet Susic said. "God was on Mexico's side."
"It was a lucky goal," Hernandez acknowledged.
Edin Dzeko scored for Bosnia in the 29th minute. Giovani Dos Santos had Mexico's other goal, in the sixth minute.
This was the second of three games Mexico is playing in the United States as it gets ready to begin World Cup qualifying next week. Bosnia, meanwhile, arrived in Chicago after a 1-0 loss to Ireland over the weekend and with seemingly little to play for. Bosnia didn't make next month's European championships, and it doesn't have a World Cup qualifier until September.
But the Bosnians played with ruthless efficiency, and gave Mexico a very good warm-up for the game against Brazil on Sunday in Arlington, Texas — to say nothing of El Tri's World Cup qualifying campaign that begins June 8 against Guyana.
Dos Santos gave Mexico an early lead, pouncing on a deflected shot in the sixth minute and driving the ball into the net with a swift, left-footed shot. But Bosnia quickly found its rhythm, leaving Mexico flustered.
"The first half was hard, back and forth," Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre said.
Mexico was playing without Rafa Marquez, who strained his right quadriceps in Sunday's exhibition against Wales, and El Tri's defense was clearly out of sync without him. Dzeko, whose 14 goals for Manchester City included one in stoppage time that helped secure City's first Premier League title in 44 years, left Mexican defenders flat-footed time and again, and he could have had two or three goals if not for some poor finishing. Dzeko missed a header off a corner kick in the 14th minute, and Guillermo Ochoa had to punch away another shot from him less than a minute later.
Finally, in the 29th minute, he got an equalizer on a sequence that showcased Bosnia's deft passing and cohesion. Haris Medunjanin threaded a pass to Zvjezdan Mismovic, who made a beautiful backheel flick through the Mexican defense. Dzeko caught up to the ball with only Ochoa in front of him, and he faked out the goalkeeper with a stutter-step. As Ochoa fell to the ground, Dzeko dribbled past him and slotted the ball into the empty goal.
But Mexico was far more lively in the second half, particularly after Hernandez and Andres Guardado came on. Hernandez had his chances in the 80th, and Guardado earned Mexico a free kick from 35 yards after he was brought down by Mensur Mujdza.
Angel Reyna wasn't even close, sending the free kick sailing over the crossbar.
"It was frustrating because we were looking for that second goal to give us the advantage," Hernandez said.
Finally, with seconds to spare, he found it.
"At the end, we're leaving with the result we're looking for," de la Torre said.