Defending champions Uruguay began their Copa America campaign with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Jamaica.
With Barcelona forward Luis Suarez – the 2011 player of the tournament – banned for the competition due to his bite on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at last year’s World Cup, Uruguay were uninspiring in front of goal.
Oscar Tabarez’s men struggled to break down tournament invitees Jamaica, who were resolute at the back for much of Saturday’s contest in Antofagasta.
However, Uruguay took advantage of the one true defensive lapse made by the tournament outsiders, as Cristian Rodriguez opened the scoring in the 52nd minute.
Winger Rodriguez made no mistake with a close-range strike at the end of a well-worked set-piece move from the two-time World Cup winners.
That goal proved to be enough to ensure maximum points, although with 2014 World Cup runners-up Argentina also in Group B, Uruguay will likely need to make significant improvements to advance via top spot.
Few would have expected Jamaica to be able to compete with Tabarez’s side but they more than held their own in a dour first half bereft of goalscoring opportunities.
The Caribbean side clearly had the backing of the neutral supporters inside the Estadio Regional Calvo y Bascunan and they had the Uruguay defence on the back foot on a number of occasions in the opening 45 minutes.
However, a lack of quality in the final third was painfully evident as Jamaica laboured to create any chances of note.
Winfried Schafer’s men were almost punished in the 39th minute, but goalkeeper Dwayne Kerr sprung to his side’s rescue by turning Rodriguez’s effort from the edge of the area around the post.
That did not deter the ambition of Jamaica, who would have taken a shock lead had Darren Mattocks not mis-hit his shot when through on goal, allowing Diego Godin to clear.
A frustrating half for Uruguay was summed up in the 43rd minute when Edinson Cavani volleyed wide at the near post from Maxi Pereira’s cut-back.
But it took Uruguay just seven minutes after the restart to break the deadlock, as Rodriguez met Jose Gimenez’s header back across goal from Nicolas Lodeiro’s free-kick with a simple finish into the bottom-right corner.
Jamaica saw a good chance to level go begging 14 minutes from time when substitute Lance Laing’s left-wing cross was headed narrowly wide of the post by Giles Barnes.
Despite further late pressure from Jamaica, there were no more real scares for Uruguay, while Christian Stuani fired over the crossbar with the goal gaping at the other end as Tabarez’s team ground out a victory that provided little to suggest they can lift the trophy for a 16th time.
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