James Rodriguez scored a dramatic winner with seven minutes remaining as Colombia got their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a 1-0 home win over Bolivia.
It looked as if Jose Pekerman’s side were heading towards a frustrating draw in Barranquilla, until captain James netted from the rebound after his penalty had been saved by Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.
Colombia had earlier hit the crossbar twice through Luis Muriel and Yerry Mina, but Juan Cuadrado was then fouled by Cristian Coimbra in the box to give the hosts a chance from the spot.
The home team have now ended a poor run of form that saw them come into the game winless in their last three qualifiers, failing to score in their last two.
They move above Ecuador, Chile and Argentina and into the automatic qualification spots for Russia 2018, ahead of the other matches later on Thursday.
Bolivia, meanwhile, remain second bottom of the table. Angel Hoyos’ side beat Paraguay last time out but have now lost seven straight away matches in qualifying.
#WCQ | FT
Colombia 1-0 Bolivia
Late @jamesdrodriguez goal secures crucial 3 pts for Los Cafeteros
Details here ️https://t.co/xYiqQueEu8 pic.twitter.com/8MAoSDOvYH
— #WCQ (@FIFAWorldCup) March 23, 2017
Colombia came close to getting the opener when Muriel latched on to Pablo Armero’s cross and sent a first-time volley against the bar from 10 yards.
Lampe then saved Mateus Uribe’s strike at the second attempt after the Colombia midfielder had been found by Macnelly Torres.
The hosts – already playing without the injured Radamel Falcao – suffered a blow just after the half-hour mark when Muriel limped off with an apparent hamstring injury, Luis Quinones replacing him.
And Colombia could not find a breakthrough prior to half-time, Cuadrado heading narrowly wide from James’ cross in their last big chance of the half.
Real Madrid star James saw his header from Armero’s cross pushed away by Lampe after the break as Bolivia continued to frustrate the hosts, despite offering little attacking threat themselves.
Colombia soon struck the woodwork for the second time, Mina’s looping header from a corner bouncing off the underside of the bar and adjudged not to have crossed the line.
Macnelly had Lampe worried with a 25-yard drive that just flew wide, before Pekerman’s final change saw Edwin Cardona replace the ineffective Carlos Bacca.
Lampe saved James’ dipping effort and a penalty claim for handball against Coimbra was turned down as the match entered the final 10 minutes.
But Coimbra was penalised in Colombia’s next attack, the Bolivia defender ruled to have fouled Cuadrado as the Juventus winger raced onto the ball in the right-hand side of the box.
That allowed James to step up from the spot, with Lampe saving his initial effort with a dive to his right, but his parry allowed the Madrid star to convert the rebound from eight yards and give Colombia a sixth straight win in competitive matches against Bolivia.
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