Ecuador reinvigorated their World Cup qualifying campaign with a deserved victory against a poor Colombian team on Sunday afternoon.
“El Tri” dominated the match throughout and finally took the lead via the ex-Birmingham misfit Christian “Chucho” Benitez in 54 minutes; however the Ecuadorians second half profligacy almost cost them dear later when they lost Noboa to a needless red card on 86 minutes.
The Colombians rallied near the end and were victim of some poor officiating and penalty decisions. This prompted the “Cafeteros” to surround the referee at full time but they had little right of protest after a fairly, insipid display.
After last week’s humbling in Buenos Aires Ecuador needed to get their qualification campaign back on track with a victory against Colombia. Lionel Messi had replicated his Barcelona form in the Monumental and ripped apart an Ecuadorian inexperienced defence at will.
The blame for this was left squarely at the feet of Ecuador’s, Columbian coach Reinalda Rueda. To many his tactics and inexperienced line-up choice was overly cavalier and baffling. Perhaps mindful of this Rueda opted to bring in Juan Carlos Paredes and Fricson Erazo to bolster the defence and Segundo Castillo and Jefferson Montero into midfield.
Much of the pre-match hype had concentrated on Falcoa, who had been linked to Chelsea and Barcelona in preceding weeks. The Atletico Madrid hit man had just had another free-scoring season in La Liga and the Europa Cup and his link up with Dorlan Pabon was felt to be a potent threat.
Unfortunately, they were as impressive and as explosive as a dead fish and the many Colombian supporters in the Atahualpa were left frustrated and bitterly, disappointed.
Ecuador controlled the midfield through the first half and many of their chances were created down the left wing and good link up play between Montero and Noboa. Unfortunately their last ball was often terrible. In addition Benitez looked slow and cumbersome in attack, often opting for long range efforts that smashed into the defence or skied high and wide.
The home crowd became audibly more animated every time Antonio Valencia received the ball but the Manchester United winger was unable to have a telling impact in the first half. Although he linked well with the marauding Paredes of Deportivo Quito, in the main he was well marked and covered. At times Ecuador seemed to concentrate their attacks on the right too much when the left was more successful.
Ecuador finally broke the deadlock just after half time. Walter Ayovi swung in a high ball that was deflected directly into the path of Benitez, who headed in from 5 yards to claim his 22nd goal for Ecuador. Boosted by his goal, Benitez became more animated from then on and was unlucky to double his teams lead 10 minutes later. From fully 40 yards his fierce shot cannoned off the crossbar then to safety.
From then on the game became scrappy and ill-tempered with both teams committing needless fouls. When Noboa scythed down Falcoa 86 minutes he had to walk setting into a motion a hectic last 10 minutes for the home side. In the end Ecuador held on for a valuable 3 points.
Ecuador has an awkward looking team and reminds me of one of the African teams of 1994 or 1998 World Cups. This is not because the majority of the players are of Afro-American decent but more because they a strong and athletic side which has plenty of speed although maybe at the expense of ball control and attacking ingenuity. On paper they cannot match other teams in terms of individual ability. They do not have a Messi or Neymar to create chances and harness the creative impetuous of a game so depend on their pace and strength.
Valencia is their star and a fine player but not a game changer. He is capable of scoring goals but his influence is limited by his far right position for Ecuador.
On Sunday’s evidence Ecuador will find it hard to match the likes of Uruguay and Argentina away fromQuito. If they are going to claim an automatic qualification spot they must score more goals and record points away from the Atahaulpa.
CONMEBOL CURRENT STANDINGS
P W D L F A GD Pts
Chile 6 4 0 2 11 10 1 12
Uruguay 5 3 2 0 14 6 8 11
Argentina 5 3 1 1 11 4 7 10
Ecuador 5 3 0 2 6 6 0 9
Venezuela 6 2 2 2 4 6 -2 8
Colombia 5 2 1 2 5 5 0 7
Bolivia 6 1 1 4 7 11 -4 4
Paraguay 5 1 1 3 4 9 -5 4
Peru 5 1 0 4 6 11 -5 3
With 9 points from 5 games and in 4rth position Ecuador have made a solid start to their campaign but the real effort will lie in their travels. They have 11 matches left to play and 6 of these are away from home. The Ecuadorians will have to create a Plan B if they are to progress to Brazil. If they lose Valencia or the opposition catch on to their reliance on the Manchester United player then Ecuador will be severely limited. Colombia can ill afford to lose many more points.
Ecuador’s remaining World Cup Qualification fixtures.
7 September 2012
Ecuador v Bolivia
11 September 2012
Uruguay v Ecuador
12 October 2012
Ecuador v Chile
16 October 2012
Venezuela v Ecuador
26 March 2013
Ecuador v Paraguay
7 June 2013
Peru v Ecuador
11 June 2013
Ecuador v Argentina
6 September 2013
Colombia v Ecuador
10 September 2013
Bolivia v Ecuador
11 October 2013
Ecuador v Uruguay
15 October 2013
Chile v Ecuador
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