HOUSTON - Rafael Marquez Lugo and Oribe Peralta scored late in the second half, and Mexico salvaged its 2012 debut with a 3-1 victory against Venezuela in an exhibition Wednesday night at Reliant Stadium.

Marquez Lugo tapped in the game-winning goal against an open goal in the 88th minute, and Peralta stumbled into a turnover and converted from 19 yards out about a minute later.

It was a complex game against a very disciplined opponent," said Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, whose team included many young players vying for a spot in El Tri's pre-Olympic team. "This type of game helps us prepare for upcoming important competitions."

Venezuela jumped to lead in the 52nd minute, when forward Edgar Greco headed in a corner by captain Micky Mea Vitali, squeezing the low shot past Mexico keeper Jesus Corona.

It took Mexico, playing without any of its Europe-based players, more than 15 minutes and a couple of offensive-minded substitutions to react. Defender Carlos Salcido collected a pass from the left flank and, given space, he sent a blast past Venezuela goalkeeper Leonardo Morales to tie it in the 68th minute.

"We wanted to start the year off on the right foot," said Salcido, a veteran of El Tri who has played in Germany and the English Premier League.

Venezuela was coming off a 1-0 loss to the United States four days earlier, in which the Americans scored in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time.

Mexico was the better team in the first half and often looked dangerous in its attack from the flanks, but failed to generate clear scoring opportunities.

You have young guys wanting to come in and earn a spot," said Mexico forward Marco Fabian, 22. "The field is where you can prove things.

"We want to make the best of these opportunities."

Defender Jesus Zavala had Mexico's best chance of the half, but his powerful header off a corner kick in the 27th minute bounced off the crossbar.

Venezuela's best chance of the first half came in the 44th minute via free kick, but Vitali's middle-distance shot blocked by Mexico's Corona.

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