Venezuela edged a physical and end-to-end friendly against Peru 1-0 in Florida on Tuesday, in a tantalising preview of their Copa America fixture.
The two nations are set to meet in Chile, drawn together in Group C of the continental competition – and will go head-to-head in Valparaiso on June 18.
Their past four outings had seen 17 goals, and it was only a matter of time before the opening goal came – with Josef Martinez providing it in the 60th minute, and it proved to be the winner.
Martinez’s third international goal broke the deadlock, the Torino striker storming into the penalty area and tucking away a powerful finish from the right-hand side of goal.
The goal came just seconds after Peru attacker Irven Avila should have had the ball in the back of the net, but his free header flicked the crossbar – and would have been ruled out for offside had it been on target.
The two chances were indicative of the end-to-end nature of the contest in Fort Lauderdale, which saw plenty of aggression towards both goal and opponent.
There was no love lost with no less than three Peru players appearing injured in the first half alone, with striker Jean Deza substituted prior to the half-hour mark.
Earlier, Deza had looked to be in a promising position when put through by Luis Advincula in the 21st minute, taking a touch but eventually getting squeezed by the Venezuela defence.
Deza’s strike deflected off a Venezuelan defender and into the arms of goalkeeper Alain Baroja, with the six-time Peru international seemingly picking up an injury in the play – and was replaced by Christian Cueva moments later.
Paolo Hurtado (right calf) and Jair Cespedes (knee) were other Peru players to require treatment in the opening 45 minutes, which featured 20 fouls.
Emotions were running high after the break too, with an all-in eventuating in the 53rd minute – which saw each of Roberto Rosales (Venezuela) and Andre Carrillo (Peru) carded.
Moments earlier, Venezuela’s Salomon Rondon had the chance to open the scoring but, after taking two touches inside the area, the Zenit striker could only poke a shot over the crossbar.
Second-half Peru substitute Raul Ruidiaz almost earned his side a penalty, going down inside the area in the 73rd minute after contact – but referee Armando Castro waved away the appeals.
Cesar Gonzalez’s acrobatic effort nearly doubled Venezuela’s lead, the midfielder throwing himself at a bouncing ball into the area – but his fly-kick went wide of the target.
Some clutch one-on-one goalkeeping from Baroja and Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese frustrated the two nations’ respective attackers late on, but ultimately, Noel Sanvincente’s men took the spoils ahead of the Copa America.
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