Venezuela beat Ecuador 1-0 in Copa America

Unfancied Venezuelan side upset Ecuador to go to the top of Group B, while Brazil snatch a 2-2 draw with Paraguay.

    Brazil's playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso, right, laid on both goals for his side [Reuters]

    An unfancied Venezuelan side upset Ecuador 1-0 to go to the top of Group B at the Copa America, while Brazil snatch a 2-2 draw with Paraguay after substitute Fred hit a last-minute equaliser.

    Midfielder Cesar Gonzalez scored the goal on Saturday that stunned Ecuador and put Venezuela two points clear of Brazil and Paraguay with one match to go in their group.

    The game was still scoreless as the second half got underway, but again it was Venezuela - thought by many to be the minnows of the group - who looked the more likely to make the break through.

    Some slick passing saw them cut through the Ecuador defence, but again they were found lacking when it came to providing the scoring touch - a weak back heel from Miku proving easy to save once much of the hard work had been done.

    But two minutes after the hour mark they eventually edged ahead with some clinical finishing.

    Again, some good controlled passing saw them move into the Ecuador half with Cesar Gonzalez sprinting onto a loose ball and firing it into the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead.

    Falling behind seemed to spur Ecuador to greater endeavour as they went in search of an equaliser.

    Edson Montano made a strong run before passing to Felipe Caicedo who showed plenty of strength in stepping past three defenders but produced a woefully weak finish that Vega made light work of.

    As the clock ticked down, they were unable to conjure an equaliser and Venezuela ran out 1-0 winners at the Padre Ernesto Martearena stadium in Salta, shaking off their tag as a baseball nation, by deservedly claiming only their third ever win in the competition.

    Brazil snatch equaliser

    Meanwhile, Brazil, for whom playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso laid on both goals with similar defence-splitting passes, took the lead six minutes before halftime at the Mario Alberto Kempes stadium in Cordoba.

    Midfielder Ramires gained possession at the breakdown of a Paraguay attack and fed Ganso, who touched the ball perfectly through to Jadson who wasted no time shooting from the edge of the area low into the bottom corner.

    Roque Santa Cruz equalised 11 minutes after the interval when the Brazilian defence failed to clear Marcelo Estigarribia's cross from the left into the middle of the box and the striker shot into the bottom corner past Julio Cesar.

    Paraguay went ahead 12 minutes later when the ever-dangerous Estigarribia robbed Daniel Alves on the left of the area and squared to the middle where substitute Nelson Haedo Valdez's shot came off Lucio, but he put it away at the second attempt.

    Brazil snatched the equaliser when striker Fred took a perfect through pass into the box from Ganso and fired low past goalkeeper Justo Villar.

    Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino, rather than ruing Brazil's late equaliser, said he was pleased with the progress shown by his team in a tight tournament since they reached the last eight at the 2010 World Cup.

    "Beyond the result, I can say that after two matches here, we have played better than in the World Cup and we have fewer points," Argentine Martino told the post-match news conference.

    Decisive final round

    The goal by midfielder Jadson, replacing Robinho in the only change to Brazil's side from the 0-0 draw with Venezuela in La Plata last Sunday, was the first in the group after the opening two matches had finished scoreless.

    Mano Menezes, Brazil's coach, regretting their defensive mistakes, said: "It would have been unfair to have come away from this match defeated. Paraguay did little to beat us.

    "We had two other good chances that we missed through making the wrong choice [at the finish] ... The final round of [group] games has become decisive because of what [the four teams] have done up to now."

    The final group placings will be settled when Paraguay meet Venezuela in Salta on Wednesday and Brazil face Ecuador in Cordoba on Thursday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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