Ochoa, Mexican ‘World Cup goalie,’ hurts AC Milan in battle for CL tickets
Rarely do European soccer fans see goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in action. But those who tuned their television to the San Siro on Monday night saw the Mexican goalie shine under the crossbar at Salernitana.
Visiting AC Milan finished 1-1, after crucial saves from the 37-year-old Mexican. A draw that suits the Milanese badly in the battle for tickets to Champions League soccer, after all rivals lost points this weekend.
If Mexico plays at a World Cup, Ochoa will be there. The goalkeeper also played at the World Cup in Qatar, where he stopped a Robert Lewandowski penalty in the game with Poland. It was already the fifth World Cup that Ochoa experienced with “El Tri.
Still going to Europe again
Experienced enough with 134 internationals and rarely lacking in clever saves, Ochoa never played at a major European club. Born in Guadalajara, Ochoa learned to play soccer at Mexican Club América, where he played in the first team for seven years before roaming Europe for eight years.
After fairly anonymous adventures at French Ajaccio, Spanish Málaga and Standard Liege, he returned to Club América in 2019. Three years of winding down, it seemed, until time would finally strike.
But last winter, Ochoa suddenly surfaced south of the volcano Vesuvius. In Salerno at Salernitana, where he is helping the low-flyer fight against relegation.
Partly due to injury to fellow goalkeeper Sepe Luigi, Ochoa has been getting plenty of playing minutes in recent weeks. And when Ochoa plays, there is often spectacle. He did not disappoint against AC Milan either.
After Olivier Giroud gave the Milanese a 1-0 lead just before halftime, Salernitana equalized through Boulaye Dia after more than an hour of play. AC Milan opened a final offensive on Ochoa’s goal, but each time the Mexican held firm.
For example, Ochoa miraculously saved a ball off the line after Milan defender Pierre Kalulu himself prevented the ball from bouncing in with his shoulder. Suddenly, Ochoa found the ball in his hands.
Milan continued to press and created several chances, but when Ochoa also prevented substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic from hitting the target with a left-footed shot in injury time, it was clear that there was no more in it for AC Milan than a draw. That left only a one-point gap with number five AS Roma.
Things got grim at the end, when a good number of benchwarmers from both teams joined a clump that had formed after a hard-fought duel. Ochoa watched it from a distance and could conclude afterward that his new employer is seven points above the relegation line after the draw.