Colombia claimed a famous win at the Copa America on Wednesday, overcoming arch-rival Brazil 1-0 in Santiago to recover from their shock loss to Venezuela.
The victory was only Colombia’s third in 28 meetings with Brazil, while they had only beaten their neighbours once before in a competitive fixture – a 2-0 triumph at the 1991 Copa America.
Central defender Jeison Murillo scored the only goal of the game nine minutes before half-time, while the Granada man also played a critical role at the back, combining brilliantly with Cristian Zapata to corral the likes of Neymar and Roberto Firmino.
Having at times struggled to get out of their own half in the opening 30 minutes, Colombia hit the front in the 36th minute when Brazil failed to deal with Juan Cuadrado’s free-kick.
The Chelsea attacking midfielder whipped in his delivery from the right and the ball bobbled around on the edge of the six-yard box before falling to Murillo, who struck it sweetly on the turn from near the penalty spot.
After last year’s World Cup quarter-final between the two sides was marred by regular fouls on James Rodriguez and Neymar, with the latter suffering a fractured vertebra after a barge from behind by Juan Camilo Zuniga, it was little surprise Wednesday’s game ended with 39 fouls.
Tensions boiled over after the final whistle, with the teams having to be separated, with the referee seemingly showing a red card to Neymar and Colombia substitute Carlos Bacca.
It was also the Barcelona forward, who had Brazil’s best chances to score, inexplicably heading straight at David Ospina on the cusp of half-time and dragging his shot wide when clear through on goal two minutes after the break.
In a high-tempo first half, Brazil shaded possession, although Colombia produced more shots as they focused on counter-attacking, with neither goalkeeper too busy.
After Murillo gave Colombia the lead, however, Jose Pekerman’s team took control with Radamel Falcao and Teofilo Gutierrez both missing chances.
Shouts of “ole” rang out from the Colombian fans soon after as James and Co. strung passes together at will, before Cuadrado shot wide from 18 yards.
But Colombia were lucky to lead at the break after Neymar failed to put Dani Alves’ cross past Ospina.
Cuadrado could have made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute when he cut in from the right, while Firmino wasted a huge opportunity to level the match six minutes later, blazing over the bar after Ospina slipped.
James was just denied what would have been a deserved second goal for Colombia in the 90th minute as Jefferson tipped his rasping drive past the post.
But having lost their Copa America opener to Venezuela 1-0, Colombia clearly needed the win more, with Pekerman’s side defending desperately throughout the final 30 minutes to join Brazil and the Venezuelans on three points in Group C.
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