Martin Caceres and Diego Godin gave Uruguay a winning start to CONMEBOL World Cup qualification as they beat Bolivia 2-0 in La Paz on Thursday.
The defensive duo struck in either half for Oscar Tabarez’s side in the opening game of the qualifying campaign in South America, earning the visitors their first win in Bolivia since 2007.
An open encounter saw both goalkeepers called into action on a number of occasions before Caceres broke the deadlock with a calm finish.
Bolivia’s attempts to get back into the game saw Yasmani Duk twice go close, but the crossbar and Fernando Muslera were on hand to keep him at bay.
Eventually the hosts’ profligacy was punished as Godin had the simple task of heading home Carlos Sanchez’s free-kick after Daniel Vaca failed to collect the cross.
A reckless challenge from Jair Torrico saw the Bolivia full-back sent off shortly after Godin’s goal, his moment of indiscipline ultimately allowing Uruguay to cruise to all three points.
A lively start saw both sides threaten the opening goal, Jhasmani Campos firing two low efforts wide for the hosts either side of Abel Hernandez’s volley that was well saved by Vaca.
The relentless start showed no sign of abating and with 10 minutes on the clock Uruguay – who were without suspended duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani – broke the deadlock, Caceres reacting quickly to sweep home after Vaca had made a superb save to deny Hernandez.
Bolivia quickly upped the tempo and went agonisingly close to levelling when Duk out-muscled Godin inside the penalty area, but his strike thudded against Muslera’s bar.
Sanchez was denied a second Uruguay goal from a free-kick after 20 minutes as Vaca tipped over, while Muslera was quickly on hand to deny Campos at the other end soon after.
Bolivia finished the half strongly and were again foiled by Muslera as Alejandro Chumacero’s curling effort was pushed wide.
Keen to wipe out their deficit quickly after the restart Bolivia were immediately on the front foot, and Duk wasted an early opening with a wayward header – albeit under pressure from Godin.
Duk was causing plenty of problems for the Uruguay backline and just before the hour his strength saw off two defenders. The loose ball dropped to substitute Oscar Diaz but his shot lacked power.
Having soaked up plenty of Bolivia pressure Uruguay delivered a sucker punch after 69 minutes as Godin doubled their advantage, the captain nodding home at the back post as Vaca failed to claim Sanchez’s left-wing delivery.
A disappointing day for Bolivia was sealed two minutes later as Torrico’s strong challenge on Jose Gimenez earned him a straight red card, enabling Uruguay to control the closing minutes against the 10 men.