July 20, 2015 / 10:29 AM / 2 years ago

Mexico coach downplays referee influence on late winner

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Jul 19, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado (18) kicks a penalty kick to score a goal against Costa Rica during stoppage time of the overtime period of a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal match at MetLife Stadium. Mexico won 1-0 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - Mexico coach Miguel Herrera has denied his team had received help from the referee to beat Costa Rica 1-0 after extra time and reach the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals.

Midfielder Andres Guardado converted from the spot in the 124th minute of Sunday's quarter-final at the MetLife after Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez awarded Mexico a controversial penalty for an alleged push on striker Oribe Peralta.

Lopez was set to give Costa Rica a goal kick after Peralta was unable to connect with an attempted header but changed his mind and pointed to the spot after his American assistant Eric Boria flagged for a penalty by Costa Rica's Roy Miller.

"It's not that (referees) help us. After so much trying (to score) we deserved to win," Herrera told reporters. "I asked Oribe what happened and he said Miller 'threw himself onto me'. We'll have to see the video."

Defender Miller said Peralta had fallen dramatically under no pressure from him and Costa Rica were hurt by the injustice of the decision.

"In the area, you know there will always be contact but there was no push, he (Peralta) made a drama of it. In the end it's an injustice and we're leaving (the tournament) very hurt," Miller said.

"It's not right that in the final minute there should be this injustice against us but we're leaving with our heads high."

In the last four, Mexico will meet Panama who won 6-5 on penalties against Trinidad and Tobago following a 1-1 draw after extra time in the quarter-final doubleheader at the MetLife in East Rutherford.

Herrera called on his team to improve their finishing after hitting the woodwork twice against Costa Rica and also squandering other chances.

"We have not been as true as we should have been (with our aim), we're well aware we must have better finishing to be calmer and be able to enjoy the match," Herrera said.

Hosts and title holders the United States face Jamaica in the other semi-final with both being be held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Carlos Calvo in Mexico City; Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by John O'Brien

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