Radamel Falcao’s return from the international wilderness failed to spark Colombia into life as they were held to a 0-0 draw in their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier with Chile.
Falcao had not featured for Colombia in 13 months prior to Thursday’s clash in Barranquilla, but his second-half introduction could not inspire the hosts to victory.
Opportunities were at a premium for the Monaco striker as Colombia failed to significantly strengthen their position in the top four of the qualifying group – James Rodriguez and substitute Luis Muriel wasting late half-chances.
Chile captain Claudio Bravo kept his side in the game in the opening 45 minutes with good saves to deny Oscar Murillo and debutant Miguel Borja.
Bravo’s day ended in disappointment, though, as he left the field injured just after hour – giving Chile and Manchester City plenty to worry about.
Chile will hope for good news regarding his fitness – and for Arturo Vidal, who also came off with a knock – ahead of their next qualifier with Uruguay on Tuesday, while Colombia meet Argentina in San Juan.
A tight opening saw the visitors enjoy the better of proceedings, while 23-year-old Borja caused problems for the Chile defence with his blistering pace.
With no Alexis Sanchez, Chile looked to Bayern Munich midfielder Vidal for inspiration and he very nearly delivered after 17 minutes with a controlled volley that flew just wide of David Ospina’s goal.
A needless foul by Charles Aranguiz on Edwin Cardona with nine minutes of the half to play nearly brought the opening goal, but Oscar Murillo headed straight at Bravo from Rodriguez’s delivery.
Eduardo Vargas – starting in place of the absent Sanchez – worked Ospina with a volley from 20 yards just before the break, but it failed to stretch the Arsenal goalkeeper.
Bravo had to be much more alert in stoppage time as Abel Aguilar flicked on another Rodriguez free-kick, only for Borja to see his volley superbly saved by the Chile captain.
It was his last meaningful involvement, however, as a heavy collision with Santiago Arias brought an early end to his match.
As he denied the Colombian full-back with a perfectly executed sliding tackle, Bravo was caught by Arias and, despite trying to carry on, he was soon replaced by Johnny Herrera.
A raft of cynical challenges from both sides ensured the game struggled to build up any momentum, although with time running out things finally began to open up.
Falcao managed to wriggle free after 78 minutes following good work by fellow substitute Muriel only to see his effort well blocked, while Jose Fuenzalida dragged Chile’s best opening wide moments later.
Muriel could have twice won it late on for the hosts, but he blazed both efforts over the crossbar to sum up a frustrating game for both sides.