James strikes for Colom­bia as del­uge sinks Brazil-Ar­gentina

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MON­TE­V­IDEO: Real Madrid star James Ro­driguez re­turned to snatch a draw for Colom­bia against Chile on Thurs­day as Ar­gentina and Brazil’s long-awaited World Cup qual­i­fy­ing clash was post­poned by tor­ren­tial rain.

Ro­driguez, who missed Colom­bia’s open­ing two 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers last month through in­jury, pounced in the 68th minute to help give his team a pre­cious point in a 1-1 draw with the Copa Amer­ica cham­pi­ons in San­ti­ago. Chile, who dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion for long pe­ri­ods but strug­gled to break down a dis­ci­plined Colom­bian de­fence, had taken the lead on the stroke of half-time through a headed Ar­turo Vi­dal ef­fort.

In other games Thurs­day, sur­prise pack­age Ecuador de­feated Uruguay 2-1 to main­tain their 100 per­cent start to the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign af­ter three matches. Ecuador, shock win­ners over Ar­gentina in Buenos Aires last month, se­cured all three points through Fidel Martinez’s sec­ond-half win­ner. Uruguay, miss­ing sus­pended su­per­star Luis Suarez-still serv­ing a ban for his in­fa­mous bite at the 2014 World Cup-strug­gled to con­tain a vi­brant Ecuador side, com­fort­able in the chal­leng­ing thin An­dean air of Quito, some 9,000-feet above sea level.

Ecuador took the lead on 23 min­utes through Felipe Caicedo, the Es­panyol striker coolly tuck­ing away a low cross from Juan Pare­des on the right flank. But Uruguay lev­elled four min­utes af­ter half-time through re­turn­ing striker Edin­son Ca­vani, the Paris Saint-Ger­main for­ward head­ing home from Ni­co­las Lodeiro’s per­fectly flighted free-kick.

But Ecuador re­gained the lead only 10 min­utes later how­ever through an op­por­tunis­tic strike from Martinez.

‘Su­per­cla­sico’ washout Swansea City for­ward Jef­fer­son Mon­tero was the cat­a­lyst, cut­ting in pur­pose­fully from the left flank and un­leash­ing a fierce low shot to­wards Fer­nando Muslera.

Muslera could only parry the shot into the path of Martinez, who jabbed home the re­bound to trig­ger wild cel­e­bra­tions in Quito’s Atahualpa Sta­dium. Ecuador will now aim to se­cure a fourth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory when they travel to Venezuela next Tues­day.

Venezuela, who lost their open­ing two matches last month, suf­fered a third de­feat ear­lier Thurs­day when they slumped to a 4-2 de­feat to Bo­livia in La Paz. But the most ea­gerly awaited match of the day, the “Su­per­cla­sico” be­tween South Amer­i­can heavy­weights Ar­gentina and Brazil, was a washout. Tor­ren­tial rain pounded Buenos Aires for hours prior to kick off, leav­ing the pitch at River Plate’s fa­mous Mon­u­men­tal Sta­dium heav­ily wa­ter­logged with no chance of play pos­si­ble.

“The bad weather made it im­pos­si­ble for the match to be played. Heavy rain is still fall­ing on Buenos Aires so the match has been post­poned,” a state­ment from the Ar­gen­tine Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (AFA) said. The match was called off ap­prox­i­mately 40 min­utes be­fore it was due to kick-off at 9pm lo­cal time (0000 GMT).

Ar­gentina and Brazil will now face each other on Fri­day, weather per­mit­ting. Brazil are wel­com­ing back su­per­star striker Neymar from sus­pen­sion af­ter his four-match ban at the Copa Amer­ica.

Ar­gentina mean­while are look­ing to bag their first win of the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign af­ter tak­ing only one point from their first two matches last month. — AFP

SAN­TI­AGO: Colom­bia’s James Ro­driguez, cen­ter, fol­lowed by team­mate Jackson Martinez, takes a shot on goal as Chile’s Francisco Silva, left, at­tempts to block the shot, in San­ti­ago, Chile, Thurs­day. — AP

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