Northern Ireland Elite boss Steve Beaglehole believes his side can be satisfied at coming away from their opening Milk Cup encounter with a point.
It was a hard-earned draw at the Coleraine Showgrounds last night against a tricky Mexican outfit.
Both the goals came in the second half, when Northern Ireland thought they had the three points in the bag, as Adam Thompson fired them ahead with little more than a quarter-of-an hour on the clock.
However, they were pegged back 10 minutes later from the penalty spot.
“In all honesty, it was an even game and to come away with a draw was the fair result, I think,” said Beaglehole.
“I thought they were very good in the final third and we maybe rode our luck at times, especially when they hit the post, but our goalkeeper Wayne Drummond was excellent,” he added.
“We stressed the need to keep a clean sheet and if we had done that we would have won the game. The bottom line is that we are still in it, as are Mexico, so the important thing is not to lose your first game.”
Mexico showed what they were capable of as early as the third minute, when Martin Galvan forced a fine save from Wayne Drummond.
Northern Ireland responded in kind when Shane Ferguson’s free-kick was met by Chris Hegarty, who glanced a header straight into the hands of Antonio Rodriguez.
The woodwork was the only thing that saved the “home” side on 20 minutes when Mexico sliced through the home defence. Bryan Leyva delivered an inch-perfect through ball to set Manon through on goal, but despite dinking the ball over the onrushing Drummond, the ball rebounded off the post and was cleared by Adam Thompson.
Captain Paddy McLaughlin tried to lead by example in the
29th minute, controlling a stray clearance on the edge of the Mexico box before directing a near-post volley that was tipped behind by Rodriguez.
Northern Ireland started the second half on the front foot, Ferguson teeing up Grigg in the 48th minute, but his shot was deflected wide.
The home goal led something of a charmed life in the 72nd minute when the post again came to the rescue.
Despite the threats from Mexico, Northern Ireland forged ahead with 15 minutes on the clock. Liam Bagnall did the damage with a powerful run to the by-line before delivering a low cross that was delicately back-heeled into the net by Adam Thompson.
Joy was short-lived as Mexico restored parity from the penalty box nine minutes from time.
Bagnall – who had just set up Northern Ireland’s opening goal – went from hero to zero by clattering into the back of Manon inside the box. Galvan confidently stepped up to rifle his spot-kick high into the top corner.
Mexico almost snatched the victory three minutes from time, but substitute Erick Torres’ point-blank header was expertly clawed away by Drummond.
N IRELAND: Drummond, Thompson (Hill 88), Jarvis, McLaughlin, Hegarty, Gorman (McCrudden 90), Breeze, Grigg (Dougan 66), Gray, Ferguson (Davidson 82), Bagnall.
MEXICO: Rodriguez, Basulto, Alvarez, Reyes, Leyva, Gonzalez (Martinez 80), Orrantia, Manon (Olascoaga 90), Galvan, Izazola (Torres 74), Tellez (Correa 61).
lElsewhere in the Elite Section Denmark put themselves in the box seat to make the final with a resounding 4-1 win over Japan in Ballymoney, while USA were narrow 1-0 winners against China.
Northern Ireland now face China in Ballymoney tomorrow night, knowing three points are needed to make Finals night on Friday.