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Paraguay 2 Honduras 2: Santa Cruz brace denies visitors victory

Paraguay were unable to end their Copa America preparations with a win as they were held to a dramatic 2-2 draw by Honduras in Asuncion.

The home side’s captain Roque Santa Cruz had a busy night in Paraguay, scoring an own goal in the eighth minute to put Honduras ahead, before equalising on two occasions to deny the visitors a third straight victory.

Santa Cruz’s second goal came in the 56th minute, just five minutes after both teams were reduced to 10 players, which played a key role in the match petering out in the final half hour.

Honduras skipper Maynor Figueroa leapt into Nelson Valdez, putting his studs into the Paraguayan striker’s chest.

Valdez was incensed, grabbing Figueroa by the front of his shirt after the visiting defender landed on the ground and dropping his knees into the Honduran’s chest, before both players were shown red cards.

Saturday’s result means Paraguay – finalists at the 2011 Copa America – will enter the 2015 edition with just one win in nine matches.

Ramon Diaz’s side have been pooled with Argentina, Uruguay and Jamaica for the continental championships in Chile, which begins on Thursday.

Honduras have two more friendlies before the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, as they face Brazil on Wednesday and Mexico on July 1.

Santa Cruz was in the middle of everything early on at the Estadio Defensores del Chaco, with the Cruz Azul striker forcing a sharp save from Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober with a header in the fifth minute.

Another header at the wrong end would see Santa Cruz give Honduras the lead, and the 33-year-old followed that up by getting his head to Paraguay’s next three corners, with the third beating Escober at the near post in the 21st minute.

Roman Castillo struck just two minutes later for Honduras, while Escober had to pull off another fine stop to deny Valdez’s close-range flick in the 24th minute.

While the rest of the first half faded away, the match sparked into life soon after the break, with Figueroa and Valdez sent off after the former’s incredibly reckless challenge.

But despite losing one of his fellow forwards, Santa Cruz gave the home fans something to cheer with 34 minutes remaining.

The veteran skipper made it three games without loss at home for Paraguay when Marcos Caceres picked out his diagonal run and Santa Cruz crunched a shot inside the near post.

Miguel Samudio almost gave Paraguay victory in second-half stoppage time but his shot flashed past the far post, while Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto was sent off.

Sun 7 Jun, 2015
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