Venezuela got their Copa America campaign under way with an unexpected but deserved 1-0 victory over dark horses Colombia at the Estadio El Teniente.
Following an impressive display at the World Cup – despite missing captain Radamel Falcao – Jose Pekerman’s side have been tipped to threaten at the competition in Chile.
And while the 2001 winners were able to pair Falcao with the in-form Carlos Bacca, it was Jose Salomon Rondon who settled the Group C affair on the hour.
It was no more than Venezuela deserved as Ronald Vargas and Alejandro Guerra went close to opening the scoring during a relatively forgettable first half.
Content to soak up minimal Colombian pressure and counter, Noel Sanvicente’s men were given their reward 15 minutes into the second half as Rondon registered his first international goal since September 2013.
Colombia asked questions of their opponents in the final stages but continued to lack ideas and invention as Venezuela held firm to strike first blood in a pool also including Brazil and Peru.
Pekerman’s men made the brighter start in Rancagua and saw James Rodriguez’s effort deflected wide six minutes in before David Ospina was required to gather Vargas’ dangerous cross from the right.
It was Venezuela’s first meaningful foray forward as Colombia edged an opening 20-minute period lacking clear-cut chances.
Vargas then forced Ospina into a smart stop following a clever ball from Juan Arango shortly before the half-hour mark.
As niggling fouls continued to break up play, both sides spurned opportunities to threaten from free-kicks prior to the break while Guerra saw an acrobatic effort tipped wide by Ospina.
Colombia looked an improved prospect after the interval – Rodriguez firing wide from the edge of the area – although Rondon offered a reminder of Venezuela’s threat on the break when he hit the woodwork before play was pulled back for a foul in the build-up.
However, Colombia failed to heed the Zenit striker’s warnings as the 25-year-old met Guerra’s diving header from a deep cross to power an angled header past Ospina.
In a bid to salvage something from what appeared one of Colombia’s more winnable games in the group, Bacca was replaced by Teofilo Gutierrez.
The River Plate man almost made an immediate impact but, in keeping with his team-mates’ attacking efforts, hesitated when clean on goal before Rodriguez had a shot saved and Juan Cuadrado saw a close-range acrobatic effort drift wide.
It leaves Pekerman and his charges with work to do if they are to live up to their pre-tournament billing, ahead of their reunion with old foes Brazil while Venezuela look ahead to a clash with Peru with momentum firmly behind them.
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