Peru currently occupy top-spot in Group A after defeating Bolivia in an entertaining contest in the Maracanã.
Bolivia took the lead inside 25 minutes when Carlos Zambrano was controversially penalized for a handball inside the penalty area. Marcelo Martins converted with ease from twelve yards to send the underdogs into a surprise lead, but Peru responded in spectacular fashion to equalize via Paolo Guerrero on the cusp of half-time.
The Peruvians seized the momentum to take the lead shortly after the restart when Jefferson Farfan turned his header home from Guerrero’s cross. After peppering the Bolivian goal with numerous chances, Peru added the killer touch to consolidate their victory when substitute Edison Flores converted from close-range in the final seconds of the match.
Copa America hosts Brazil face Venezuela in Salvador later this evening and are likely to be restored to the summit of the group. However, Peru have boosted their chances of progressing to the knockout phase with victory and all but ended any realistic hopes of Bolivia reaching the next round.
Venezuela will meet Bolivia in Mineiro on Saturday in what could prove to be a dead rubber fixture, and Peru play group favourites Brazil at the Corinthians Arena to potentially contest the group winner.
VAR Drama Presents Bolivia the Lead
Peru controlled the opening fifteen minutes by retaining possession and utilizing Jefferson Farfan and Carlos Cueva to dictate play in the attack. The blistering pace of Farfan was a useful tool on the counter-attack and Cueva continuously involved himself by dropping deep to play between the lines and influence play in the final third.
However, once the first third of the first half came to an end, Bolivia slowly grew into the game. They looked more positive on the ball and Marcelo Martins caused havoc by driving them forward with a number of bulldozing runs.
But VAR took centre stage once again as Bolivia were awarded a controversial penalty inside 25 minutes. Bolivia worked the ball forward beautifully and Peruvian defender Carlos Zambrano was penalized when a thunderous volley from 29-year-old midfielder Fernando Saucedo cannoned off his arm.
The linesman on the touch-line raised his flag for an offside in the build-up play. But VAR subsequently corrected the decision and the referee gave a penalty kick after a lengthy discussion over his headset. It was a rather cruel decision, as Zambrano had his arms in a natural position, but the continuous changes in the rules is only going to cause controversy and confusion and Zambrano is arguably a victim of this.
Marcelo Martins applied a stammered run-up and calmly slotted the ball down the centre of the goal to give Bolivia a surprise lead. The former Wigan Athletic and Werder Bremen striker extended his international tally to eighteen goals, which takes him to within just two goals of becoming the all-time Bolivian top goalscorer.
Bolivia looked to sit deeper and frustrate Peru, whose sole aim was to break on the counter-attack by utilizing the qualities of Jefferson Farfan, Carlos Cueva and Paolo Guerrero. The latter two combined to devastating effect to equalize on the cusp of half-time, just seconds after Bolivia were momentarily reduced to ten-men.
The Bolivian captain Marvin Bejarano spent a lengthy amount of time on the turf following an innocuous challenge from Guerrero, which the referee believed merited a yellow card. Bejarano was subsequently stretchered off the pitch and Peru capitalized on their numerical advantage by finding an all-important equalizer.
Erwin Saavedra was dispossessed just inside the opposition half and Carlos Cueva weaved an exquisite through ball into the path of Guerrero. The former Bayern Munchen forward escaped his marker and expertly rounded the onrushing Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe to steer his finish into the far corner from an acute angle.
Peru reaffirmed their superiority at the beginning of the second half by dominating possession and putting Bolivia on the back foot. They seized the momentum when Jefferson Farfan headed Peru into the lead with just ten minutes of the second period gone.
The attacking duo of Guerrero and Farfan switched roles, as the former, who is usually an accustomed target man, looped an immaculate cross into the penalty area for the former FC Schalke winger. Farfan darted into the penalty area, climbed above Bejarano and directed an unerring downward header beyond the hapless Lampe.
Carlos Cueva could’ve doubled their advantage and solidify their position in the match but Carlos Lampe came to Bolivia’s rescue. The Peruvian attacking midfielder broke into a prominent position inside the penalty area but Lampe judged his effort fantastically to perform a heroic save.
Peru Shine at the Maracanã
Although Bolivia had a guilt-edge opportunity to equalize via Erwin Saavedra, Peru could’ve quite easily finished at full-time with an unassailable lead. Raul Castro unleashed a thunderous cannonball from range, which was parried by Gallese directly into the feet of Saavedra, but with the goal at his mercy, Saavedra miraculously blasted his close-range effort over the crossbar.
Bolivia would subsequently rue that missed opportunity as Peru began to completely dominate proceedings in the closing twenty minutes. Had goalkeeper Bolivia not been in such inspired form, then Bolivia could’ve been facing a rather embarrassing score-line.
Carlos Lampe performed a string of spectacular saves to keep Bolivia in the contest. Polo was bearing down on goal but he emerged to pull off an expertly judged one-on-one stop and he remained alert to divert a speculative strike from improbable range by Tapia behind for a corner.