Colombia took their first steps towards the 2018 World Cup in Russia as they defeated Peru 2-0
Teo Gutierrez’s 36th-minute header and Edwin Cardona’s late strike inspired Colombia in the opening match of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying in Barranquilla on Thursday.
Gutierrez was on hand to direct Cristian Zapata’s header past Pedro Gallese, amid calls for offside, and Cardona’s scooped effort in stoppage time secured victory as Peru’s winless streak away from home in World Cup qualifying extended to 24 games – a run spanning back to 2004.
Colombia, who reached the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil, and Peru – bidding to reach the showpiece tournament for the first time since 1982 – met in a friendly last month that ended 1-1.
Thursday’s contest was similarly even throughout, as both teams enjoyed moments of ascendency without creating any clear-cut chances.
Colombia, slowly but surely, started to take a stranglehold of proceedings as Peru – happy to sit back on the counter attack – were pegged further back.
The home team’s first real sight on goal came via Carlos Bacca just past the half-hour mark, but the Milan striker’s header missed the target from close range after being picked out by Cardona.
Colombia continued to work the ball into good positions and it was not long before they finally made it count as Gutierrez broke the deadlock nine minutes before half-time.
Juan Cuadrado’s corner kick was nodded down by Zapata and into the direction of Gutierrez, who directed the ball past goalkeeper Gallese, despite Peru’s appeals for offside.
Colombia almost doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time, but Gallese was on hand to stop Cardona’s free-kick.
Peru made a bright start to second half and enjoyed their best moment of the match. Paolo Guerrero hit the right post with a curled effort as the woodwork came to David Ospina’s rescue.
Andre Carrillo, who set up Guerrero moments earlier, was then thwarted by a sliding block.
Colombia were not without their chances after the interval, but a number of misplaced passes hampered Jose Pekerman’s men.
Bacca did have an opportunity to put the result beyond doubt with five minutes remaining, but his goal-bound shot was blocked.
Second-half substitute Yordy Reyna almost made Colombia pay, but he fluffed his effort wide of the post and Cardona wrapped up the match on the counter attack with the last kick of the game as Peru failed to beat their South American rivals for a fifth consecutive game.
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