Ralph Hannah –
Ecuador vs Chile – Ecuador and Chile closed out the 2nd round of group matches with a feisty show in Salvador. There were ten cards (compared to eleven shots) with Ecuador losing and ending up with ten men once again.
Ecuador vs Chile Goals: 0-1 (Jose Maria Fuenzalida, 8′), 1-1 (Enner Valencia, 26’ PEN), 1-2 (Alexis Sánchez, 51′)
Chile were unchanged following their 4-0 thrashing of Japan, and they hit the ground running, José Fuenzalida firing in a half-volley off the post after 8 minutes.
It came after a frantic opening with Ecuador trying to press, but it was often erratic and over-zealous – in fact, Jhegson Mendez was in the book after just 3 minutes. The early opener suggested another rout was on the cards, but it proved to be the only shot on target by La Roja that half.
Perhaps it was complacency from the holders or more cohesion from their rivals – but Chile began to cough up the ball too easily and invite their opponents back into the game. Ecuador took that chance on 26 minutes when Mendez was brought down as he rounded the goalkeeper Gabriel Arias.
Enner Valencia rifled the ball into the roof of the net to celebrate his 29thgoal in his 50thgame for the Tricolor. His tremendous ratio is slightly better than Cristiano Ronaldo’s for Portugal, and the former West Ham and Everton man is now just two short of equaling Agustín Delgado as the all-time top scorer for the Andean side.
In the closing stages of the half, there was a curious VAR decision, once again Arias was involved as he swiped at the ball and missed. The original decision was no foul; VAR was called in presumably because it was a possible red card offence being the last man. Patricio Loustau overturned the call but decided to book the Racing stopper.
In the second half Chile played with more purpose and took the lead early on, Charles Aranguiz crossed the ball over a throng lurking around the penalty spot to an unmarked Alexis Sánchez at the back post. The Manchester United man sidefooted the ball straight into the turf, and it looped up agonisingly close to the goalkeeper’s fingertips, but the slight contact wasn’t enough to keep the ball out. It was his 43rdgoal for the national team and his 7thin the Copa América.
Ahead for the second time, Chile didn’t want to let this slip again, and they were more focused – happy to let Ecuador have the ball but more purposeful on the counter attacks. For all their possession (61%) in the second period, the team in yellow couldn’t generate a shot on target.
They grew frustrated, and the game descended into farce with a crescendo of fouls resulting in a series of yellow cards and ending with a red for Gabriel Achilier for an elbow to Arturo Vidal (who himself had been booked minutes earlier).
It was a similar story for Ecuador, their fourth sending off in five Copa América games, and the result also completes a familiar narrative. Bolillo Gomez’s side haven’t won a Copa game against CONMEBOL opposition since 2001, in his first stint in charge, when they defeated Venezuela 4-0 in Barranquilla.
Since then it has been three draws and ten defeats including tonight. For the “bicampeones” it was an important victory as they qualified for the knockout stages. It is now just one defeat in 14 games, a 2-1 reverse to Argentina in 2016, for Reinaldo Rueda’s side who are bidding to become only the second team ever to win this tournament three times in a row.
Ecuador vs Chile – Lineups
Dominguez – Ramirez, Arboleda, Achiller, Velasco – Gruezo – Romario Ibarra (Garces, 69′), Mendez (A. Valencia, 60′), Orejuela, Mena (Preciado, 82′) – E. Valencia
Arias – Beausejour, Maripan, Medel, Isla – Vidal (Jara, 90′), Pulgar, Aranguiz – A. Sanchez, Vargas (P. Hernandez, 86′), Fuenzalida (P. Diaz, 70′)
Ralph Hannah is Londoner, who has lived in Luque and is now located in Miami, with a keen interest in Paraguayan football history and statistics. A frequent traveler throughout Latin America he attends games throughout the region and has written for a variety of publications and set up the first English-language blog on Paraguayan Football. When not in the Defensores del Chaco he’s looking after his 2 daughters. Follow Ralph on Twitter @paraguayralph.