Ar­gentina stunned

> Gon­za­lez goal gives Paraguay 1-0 away win. Brazil go top in World Cup qual­i­fiers

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

BRAZIL pow­ered to the top of the ta­ble in South Amer­ica’s 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing race yes­ter­day with a vic­tory over Venezuela as Ar­gentina suf­fered a shock de­feat at home to Paraguay.

Goals from Manch­ester City teenager Gabriel Je­sus and Chelsea’s Wil­lian se­cured a 2-0 win over Venezuela in a match in­ter­rupted by a lengthy flood­light fail­ure that plunged Merida’s Es­ta­dio Metropoli­tano into dark­ness.

The vic­tory was Brazil’s fourth con­sec­u­tive win of the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign and left the five-time world cham­pi­ons on top of the stand­ings with 21 points af­ter 10 games.

The win was the lat­est ev­i­dence of Brazil’s resur­gence un­der new coach Tite, who took over fol­low­ing the sack­ing of Dunga in June af­ter the Sele­cao’s Copa Amer­ica Cen­te­nario flop.

It is the first time since qual­i­fy­ing be­gan that Brazil have led the stand­ings, and the team look firmly on course to main­tain their record of never hav­ing failed to qual­ify for a World Cup.

The acid test of Brazil’s re­nais­sance is likely to come next month when they play old ri­vals Ar­gentina, who stum­bled to a 1-0 de­feat at home to Paraguay in Cor­doba.

A su­perb counter-at­tack­ing goal from striker Derlis Gon­za­lez on 18 min­utes was enough to give Paraguay all three points as the hosts once again strug­gled to cope with the ab­sence of Lionel Messi.

Ar­gentina have taken just two points from a pos­si­ble nine in their past three matches, all played with­out Barcelona star Messi.

The Ar­gen­tini­ans ral­lied fu­ri­ously in the sec­ond half, with An­gel Di Maria see­ing a goal from a free­kick dis­al­lowed be­cause of a foul while both Gon­zalo Higuain and Ser­gio Aguero missed a penalty.

But with Paraguay goal­keeper Justo Vil­lar in de­fi­ant form be­tween the posts, the vis­i­tor held on for a bat­tling vic­tory which re­vives their hopes of snag­ging one of the qual­i­fi­ca­tion berths.

The win left Paraguay just one point be­hind Ar­gentina in the stand­ings af­ter 10 games. Ar­gentina oc­cupy the fifth qual­i­fy­ing spot in the ta­ble with 16 points, with Paraguay just be­hind on 15 points.

Chile, mean­while, re­main out­side the qual­i­fi­ca­tion places de­spite their 2-1 vic­tory over Peru in San­ti­ago in the re­gional derby known as the “Cla­sico del Paci­fico.”

Chile, the dom­i­nant force in South Amer­i­can foot­ball over the past two years with back-to-back wins in the Copa Amer­ica, des­per­ately needed three points to get back on track af­ter a stut­ter­ing start to the qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign.

Bay­ern Mu­nich mid­fielder Atrudo Vi­dal got “La Roja” off to a dream start, head­ing home on 10 min­utes to put Chile 1-0 up.

But a bold sec­ond half dis­play from Peru was re­warded on 76 min­utes when Edi­son Flores skipped clear on the edge of the area to ri­fle home a low shot to make it 1-1.

It seemed as though Peru had done enough for a share of the points but with time run­ning out, Vi­dal found space near the edge of the penalty area and lashed home a low shot to beat Pe­dro Gallese.

Chile’s win leaves them sev­enth in the stand­ings with 14 points, two points from the qual­i­fi­ca­tion places.

Ear­lier, lead­ers Uruguay were held to a 2-2 draw by fourth placed Colom­bia in an en­ter­tain­ing duel in rain-swept Bar­ran­quilla.

Cen­ter­back Yerry Mina headed Colom­bia’s equaliser five min­utes from time af­ter goals from Cris­tian Ro­driguez and Barcelona su­per­star Luis Suarez had helped Uruguay into a 2-1 lead at the Es­ta­dio Metropoli­tano.

Colom­bia had taken the lead through Abel Aguilar af­ter 15 min­utes to open the scor­ing.

In La Paz, two goals from Ever­ton striker En­ner Va­len­cia capped a tu­mul­tuous week for the Eng­land-based player as Ecuador came from 2-0 down to grab a 2-2 draw with Bo­livia.

Va­len­cia lashed home an 89th-minute strike to earn Ecuador a point af­ter ear­lier giv­ing his team hope with a 48th-minute goal. Bo­livia had taken a 2-0 lead through 38-year-old striker Pablo Es­co­bar.

Va­len­cia’s goals capped a dra­matic week of duty with the in­ter­na­tional team.

Last week, the 26-year-old was at the cen­ter of a bizarre in­ci­dent dur­ing his team’s win over Chile in Quito when he was ac­cused of feign­ing in­jury to avoid po­lice of­fi­cers wait­ing on the side­lines to ar­rest him in con­nec­tion with an al­imony dis­pute. – AFP ture) made the best try!”

As­sis­tant coach Steve Clarke has been in charge as care­taker man­ager dur­ing the Mid­lands club’s search for a new coach.

Villa, one of Eng­land’s tra­di­tion­ally big clubs, are 19th in the 24-team Cham­pi­onship ta­ble with 10 points from 11 games.

Di Mat­teo took over in June af­ter Villa were rel­e­gated from the Premier League last sea­son but their dis­ap­point­ing start to life in the Cham­pi­onship saw the Ital­ian sacked af­ter 124 days.

Di Mat­teo, who steered Chelsea to the Cham­pi­ons League in 2012, man­aged one win in 11 league matches with Villa. They also lost in the League Cup first round to fourth tier Lu­ton Town.

The seven-times English cham­pi­ons are in the sec­ond tier for the first time since pro­mo­tion to the top flight in 1988. – Reuters

– REUTERSPIX

Brazil’s Wil­lian (in yel­low) scores past Venezuela goal­keeper Daniel Her­nan­dez (No. 12) as Rolf Feltscher (right) looks on dur­ing the World Cup Qual­i­fi­fiers at the Metropoli­tano Sta­dium in Merida, Venezuela yes­ter­day.

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