Venezuela 1 – 0 Ecuador
Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, July 9 – Group B
After two rounds of games, Venezuela go top of Group B following a 1-0 defeat of Ecuador in an entertaining game in Salta.
Both sides broadly lined up in a 4-4-2, with the wingers given the freedom to drift in field. But the main difference, and the primary deficiency for Ecuador, was the lack of movement from their forward pairing of Felipe Caicedo and Cristian Benitez, who both struggled to get into the game and seemed isolated apart from a couple ofÂ opportunitiesÂ they forged themselves in the final minutes of the game. There were promising signs from the left, however, with both Walter Ayovi and Michael Arroyo combining well but overall their efforts were largely redundant as the loss of Antonio Valencia seemed to hinder them.
Venezuela had a more fluid attack than Ecuador, with Juan Arango rarely sticking to his remit on the left and drifting across the final third, whilst Miku dropped off and linked play from midfield to attack, giving them more dynamism than the Ecuadorian attack. The link that Arango and Miku provided meant that Venezuela looked the more dangerous of the two sides as neither of the central midfield pairings looked to progress in any attacking sense. Miku in particular found himself on the end of several half chances, which on another day could have been more fruitful for the Getafe player. The drifting of both players between the lines meant that Venezuela dominatedÂ possessionÂ higher up the pitch and always seemed the more likely to make something happen.
In a promising, but ultimately disappointing, first half, Venezuela seemed the most likely to score, with good build up play leading to chances for Miku, following a stinging drive from Gabriel Cichero, and Giancarlo Maldonado. But the half was primarily characterised by the lack of any major chances falling to either side, primarily down to a lack of incisiveness and quality, aside from a free header for OswaldoÂ Vizcarrondo following a Venezuelan corner, which went just over.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 61st minute, however, when the right winger CÃ©sar GonzÃ¡lez, who had had a few attempts already, drove home from distance. The goal was justified, with Venezuela the better of the two sides of the 90 minutes, but Venezuela’s lack of a clinical forward was obvious throughout the match. Following the goal, Ecuador struggled to get back into the match with Venezuela dominant and they probably should have finished the game off earlier but lacked the killer instinct necessary.
The substitution of Miku for the more energetic Salomon Rondon meant that Venezuela ceded possession more readily in the final 20 minutes, especially after the withdrawal of Maldonado for the defender Giacomo Di Giorgi, but Venezuela demonstrated the resoluteness they showed in the second half against Brazil to keep them at bay, in spite of the best efforts of Caicedo and Benitez, who showed more in the final 20 than they had in the entirety of the match, managing to find space and work Renny Vega in the Venezuelan goal. Caicedo, in particular, worked himself a very good chance in the 76th minute, first using his strength to hold up the ball then skillfully working his way behind the Venezuelan defence before hitting his shot directly at Vega.
The only positives for Ecuador came from the enlivened performances of Benitez and Caicedo towards the end of the game, but it was too little too late and now they face the difficult scenario of having to defeat Brazil to progress to the next round. Venezuela, meanwhile, go into the final game against Paraguay knowing they are in a strong position to qualify from Group B and are in control of their own fate, but also know that they will need to improve in front of goal should they want to progress further than that.