Belfast Telegraph

Video: Milk Cup mass brawl shame during Mexico Northern Ireland match

By Keith Bailie

Northern Ireland's Elite Section game with Mexico at the Coleraine Showgrounds was marred by shameful scenes that forced the referee to end the game with a minute left on the clock.

While Stephen Craigan's men won 2-1 – and the result will stand – the contest will undoubtedly be overshadowed by the four red cards and two mass brawls that ruined the match as a spectacle.

With Mexico leading 1-0, the match descended into farce in the 57th minute when a fight broke out as Northern Ireland attempted to take a corner.

Punches and kicks were thrown and a number of players found themselves on the deck, including Josh Doherty and Dale Gorman.

Both benches spilled onto the pitch as the melee escalated and stewards were forced to intervene before referee Tim Marshall eventually sent off three players – Mexico goalkeeper Raul Gudino and defender Carlos Arreola as well as Northern Ireland's Robbie McDaid.

After the hosts had pulled 2-1 in front thanks to goals from Mikhail Kennedy and Sean Mullan, proceedings were halted again in the 89th minute after Kevin Gutierrez was sent off for kicking out and, when another brawl ensued, the game was called to an abrupt end.

The disgraceful scenes tarnished what had otherwise been a pulsating evening of football at the Coleraine Showgrounds as both sides produced an enthralling battle that kept spectators on the edge of their seats until the last minute – which arrived sooner than expected.

The first chance of the night came on 13 minutes when defender Jamie Harney threatened with a header from a Josh Doherty corner, only for the ball to whistled past the far post.

Mexico had a tremendous chance shortly afterwards when Mascorro sped down the right-flank before delivering a superb cross, but Julio Cruz's diving header didn't find the target.

Cruz came close again in the 25th minute when he tried to back-heel the ball into the net from 10 yards after some smart work down the left by Arreola, but the Northern Ireland defence reacted well to block the danger.

Arreola failed to hit the target a minute later before Ochoa tried his luck with a long-range effort that failed to work Mitchell between the posts.

Mexico took the lead with a spectacular strike in the 52nd minute when midfielder Victor Guzman found himself in a pocket of space 30 yards from goal before firing a powerful shot into the top left corner.

After the 57th minute brawl brought the game to a stop for a spell, play re-started with Mexico down to nine men and Northern Ireland reduced to 10.

With their numerical advantage, Northern Ireland pushed hard for an equaliser which eventually came in the 82nd minute.

Levi Ives went on a magnificent run down the right before cutting the ball into the path of Mullan and, when his shot was blocked, Kennedy was on hand with the follow-up.

The winner arrived with three minutes left on the clock.

A Doherty free-kick caused mayhem in the Mexico box and Steven Fallon smashed a low delivery across the front of goal, where Mullan reacted quickest to score.

Mexico: Gudino, Vazquez (Gutierrez, 85 mins), Gonzalez, Guzman, Ramirez, Almeida (Martinez, 52), Arreola, Suarez, Ochoa (Aguirre, 65), Macorro (Resendez, 62), Cruz (Bernal, 63 mins). Subs: Rodriguez, Pineda.

Northern Ireland: Mitchell, Doherty, Harney, Lowe (Hanna, 62 mins), Smart, Ives, McCawl (Mullan, 72), Gorman (Kennedy, 62), McEneff, McDaid, McDonagh (Fallon, 86). Subs: Johns, Gray

Referee: Tim Marshall

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