Ecuador 4 Paraguay 1
Ecuador took a huge step towards qualification with a comfortable win over Paraguay. The win puts “La Tri” on 20 points thanks mainly to their home form in the Atahaulpa stadium.
Ecuador started with a full strength team that included Antonio Valencia, Cristain Benitez, Jefferson Montero and Filipe Caicedo. The only change from the usual 11 was the dropping of Luis Saritama for Pedro Quinonez. With a crammed home crowd behind them, Ecuador must have felt full of confidence but they didn’t reflect this on the pitch, early on.
Paraguay took the lead in the 15th minute through Luis Cabellero who shot low past Dominguez to silence the partisan hoards. It was a well taken goal but the defenders should have cleared the ball instead of dallying in the box.
The goal stung the Ecuadorians into action and they attacked Bolivia mercilessly, mainly down the flanks through the tricky Montero and Quinonez. Achilier saw his header hit the crossbar in the 24th minute then Valencia volleyed home 5 minutes later, only for it to be chalked off by the linesman. It was clear Paraguay were not going to hold out.
The equaliser was as inevitable as the scorer. Felipe Caicedo was brought back into the fold by Reinaldo Rueda for this campaign and he has repaid his coach with 5 goals at vital moments during these qualifiers. Just before half time he bustled his way past the Paraguayan defence to head in an Ayovi close from close range.
Ecuador started the 2nd half in similar fashion destroying the Paraguayans with their pace and long, deep cross field balls. In the 50th minute Quinonez dropped a splendid pass onto the feet of the onrushing Montero. The Morelia midfielder slipped past the left back then drove the ball into the net to take the lead.
Four minutes later Montero again was tormentor in chief dribbling past two defenders, cutting back then crossing for “Chucho” Benitez to head home for the third. Paraguay were being over-run by wave after wave of yellow shirts with only the woodwork saving them.
With 15 minutes Montero exchanged a one-two with Saritama and set-off on another mazy like run, snaking through the red and white jerseys with ease. Upon reaching the goal area is shot wrong footed the helpless Baretto and the ball trickled into the goal. It was fortunate but he had made his own luck.
Another home win sets Ecuador in an excellent 2nd position behind Argentina. Their next games are against Peru, away then Messi & Co in Quito. The Argentinians are notoriously weak at altitude so two draws are not overly optimistic. With Montero is this type of form another home win could seal a summer in Brazil.