Bolivia held on for a 3-2 victory over a fast-finishing Ecuador in Valparaiso, to kick-start their Copa America Group A campaign.
After both nations went goalless in their tournament openers in Chile, Monday’s encounter saw both hit the back of the net – with Bolivia going three clear by half-time courtesy of goals to Ronald Raldes, Martin Smedberg-Dalence and Marcelo Moreno.
Enner Valencia pulled one back for Ecuador just after the interval.
Gustavo Quinteros’ men then made for a thrilling finish when Miller Bolanos struck a cracker from range in the 81st minute, however an equaliser went begging.
Captain Raldes gave Bolivia the perfect start, burying a stooping header from Smedberg-Dalence’s corner in the fifth minute.
Smedberg-Dalence had already shown his prowess from dead-ball situations in the first minute, when he forced Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez to tip a curling effort around the post.
The former Sweden Under-19 representative got his just desserts for being Bolivia’s greatest threat in attack, when he curled a shot past Dominguez from outside the penalty area – after receiving a lay-off pass from Moreno.
It was Smedberg-Dalence’s first international goal, in just his fourth cap.
Ecuador dominated possession as Bolivia sat on their lead, and it looked to have mounted towards something when referee Joel Aguilar pointed to the spot late in the first half.
Valencia had earned Ecuador a corner, and when the West Ham man was awaiting a ball in – Edward Zenteno was sighted for a push on him, with the Bolivian yellow-carded for his efforts despite contact not seeming substantial.
Valencia’s luck ran out there and then, however – as he buried the spot-kick, only for it to be recalled for an encroachment.
He switched directions for his second attempt – however Romel Quinonez dived the same way – to his right – to keep out the effort.
A brain fade from Frickson Erazo led to a Bolivia penalty in the 43rd minute.
Erazo raised his foot to try and clear it from deep in their defence, however the head of Damian Lizio was nearby, and referee Aguilar pointed to the spot.
Moreno made no mistake, burying a powerful penalty past Dominguez, who guessed the right way to no avail.
Ecuador desperately sought a way back into the contest early in the second half.
They were rewarded with Valencia on hand to tap home into an unguarded net, after Jefferson Montero cut back a pass for him having drawn Quinonez off his line.
Bolivia sought to counter Ecuador’s momentum, bringing on defender Cristian Coimbra for right-sided attacker Ricardo Pedriel in the 57th minute.
And Ecuador, much like the first half, failed to find adequate space inside their area until Bolanos’ dipping strike from distance snuck in under Quinonez’s crossbar to make it 3-2.
Christian Noboa almost scored a stunning equaliser, but he was denied by the crossbar with yet another long-range strike as Bolivia held on.
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