Friday, March 25, 2016

Last minute goal galore in South America

World Cup Qualification continued last night with matchweek 5 in South America. All teams aside from Brazil and Uruguay, who face each other tonight, were in action. Here is how it went for them.

Captain steps up: Colombia's goalscorer James Rodríguez.
It all started in the Estadio Hernando Siles in La Paz, where Bolivia wanted to play out their altitude advantage (3600m above sea level) against Colombia, but failed to do so. Being down 0-2 at halftime through lovely goals from James Rodríguez (10') and Carlos Bacca (41'), Bolivia managed to fight back early in the second half.

Juan Arce converted a penalty (50'), before The Strongest' Copa Libertadores hero Alejandro Chumacero struck again, this time for his country. While Colombia felt to be disadvantaged by the referee in the buildup to the goal, the midfielder's strike was simply fantastic. Goalkeeper David Ospina, who made several big saves in the second half to keep his team in it, laid horizontally in the air and still did not have the slightest chance (63').

Bolivia kept pushing forward, but lacked a significant amount of precision towards the end. Instead, it was the visitors that stole all three points from this away game in the 92nd minute. Substitute Marlos Moreno assisted Edwin Cardona with a fantastic pass and the other substitute Cardona made no mistake and finished it into the bottom right corner.

A draw might have reflected this game a little better, but Bolivia did not pay the necessary attention right before the end. It is a big three away points for Colombia, whereas Bolivia cannot even build on their home advantage anymore, having lost 2 of 3 at the Hernando Siles.

Brace for his Albirroja: Dario Lezcano.
Over in Quito, Ecuador wanted to build on their outstanding start into the qualification campaign with a fifth win in as many games. They came close, but at the end, Paraguay snuck out a point in a 2-2 draw.

It all started well for the group leaders, when Enner Valencia gave the hosts a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. Ecuador dominated throughout the game, but failed to make it count in a decisive manner. Instead, San Lorenzo's Néstor Ortigoza ripped open the defense with the pass of the game and after receiving the low cross from the left, all Dario Lezcano had to do was pushing it over the line (38').

A well played counter became Ecuador's problem yet again in the second half. Once more, they committed many men forward and Paraguay made the most of it through Lezcano for a second time. Ingolstadt's striker struggled a bit to get the ball under control, but his shot into the left hand corner was a great one (59').

Ecuador kept pushing and pushing and finally, after 92 minutes, found an equalizer. Subsitute Ángel Mena was played through by Christian Noboa and won his country a more than deserved point. Gustavo Quinteros' team continues to do well (13 points) and remains on top of South America after week 5. But well done to Paraguay too, who already have 8 points.

Winning goal: Ángel di María.
Argentina had previously struggled and only won a single game so far, but the return of captain Lionel Messi from injury sparked a 2-1 victory over Chile in the Copa América final revenge.

Chile had not lost at home since 2012 and it did not seem like they would anytime soon either after they took the lead inside 10 minutes. Felipe Gutiérrez' powerful header from a Fabián Orellana corner left Sergio Romero no chance whatsoever. Argentina was under a lot of pressure right after the goal, only to profit from Chile's injury struggles in the following scenes.

Mati Fernández had to go off after just 7 minutes and when Marcelo Díaz received treatment, Kun Agüero and Éver Banega worked themselves into the penalty area. The ball fell onto the foot of Ángel di María and he produced a sweet finish into the far corner (19').

Five minutes later, when Chile was still trying to get organized after two early injuries, Argentina struck again. Nicolás Otamendi headed the ball towards Messi who just got his foot to it and found River's full back Gabriel Mercado. In his third game for Argentina, Mercado scored his first goal with a turnaround shot (24').

The Chileans started well into the second half and it did not take long for Alexis Sánchez to have the best chance of the game, only to see it go wide. Another time, Orellana was denied by Romero, but in general, it was Argentina who came closer to a third goal now by exposing the spaces Chile had to leave them inevitably.

La Roja tried their best, but Argentina's defense just stood solid and did not give up any huge chances anymore. The visitors ended up celebrating big three points away from Santiago. It gives them 8 in the campaign and things are starting to look a little brighter for Gerardo Martino's men. Chile have just 7 points so far.

Late hero: Raúl Ruidíaz. (All photos:
If late comebacks were a theme yesterday, Peru were a big part of it as well. In the 94th minute, the Peruvians completed a comeback at home against Venezuela that gave them at least one point in a 2-2 draw.

It was Venezuela showing a bright start to the surprise of many, as their young team went to the break with a lead. Rómulo Otero scored from the spot (33') in a first half that saw Venezuela be the better team overall.

They continued pretty well in the second half and when Mikel Villanueva scored a second one after about an hour (57'), the visitors thought they might finally get to celebrate their first qualification win on the road to Russia 2018. Villanueva was first onto a Juanpi corner that went through everybody in the area and his bullet left goalkeeper Pedro Gallese no chance.

It was a substitution that changed the game completely after 60 minutes. Raúl Ruidíaz came on for oldstar Claudio Pizarro and inside a minute, Peru had life again. He laid the ball off on the edge of the area, finding Paulo Guerrero and the Flamengo striker profited of Alain Baroja's costly error. The 26-year old goalkeeper should have made that save without a doubt, but saw the strike go right through him.

Finally, in the 94th minute, Peru got their equalizer through who but Ruidíaz. The striker got his head on Edison Flores' lovely cross from the left and managed to win his team a point late. Peru had severely dominated ever since their first goal and really earned their fortune here.

Admittedly, a point does not help either team and it does not look good for Peru and Venezuela when it comes to their point total. Peru are in 8th with 4 points, Venezuela remain deadlast after winning their first point of the campaign.


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