Brazil jumped to the top of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying standings after seeing off Venezuela 2-0 in Merida.
Top spot was up for grabs in South America following Uruguay’s draw in Colombia earlier on Tuesday and Brazil took full advantage thanks to the in-form Gabriel Jesus and Willian, despite a blackout halting proceedings late in sodden conditions.
While the floodlights went out in the 74th minute with Brazil leading 2-0, the advertising boards, scoreboard and media areas remained illuminated around Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano de Merida before technicians rectified the situation.
The wet weather impacted both teams, while the absence of suspended captain Neymar did not make things any easier for Brazil but Manchester City-bound star Jesus’ sublime first-half chip set the visitors on their way.
A goalkeeping error from Dani Hernandez in the eighth minute gifted Jesus his fourth goal in just his fourth international appearance before Willian – back in the starting XI – secured the points eight minutes after the interval as Brazil jumped a point clear of Uruguay.
Venezuela were not without their chances on home soil but they were unable to make them count, remaining rooted to the bottom of the table with two points following an eighth defeat in 10 matches.
Brushed aside by Uruguay 3-0 last week, head coach Rafael Dudamel made five changes to the starting line-up with the suspended Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, Mikel Villanueva, Alejandro Guerra, Alexander Gonzalez and Arquimedes Figuera dropping out for Roberto Rosales, Rolf Feltscher, Jose Manuel Velasquez, Arles Flores and Josef Martinez.
There were two changes for Brazil, one enforced due to Neymar’s suspension, with Paulinho and Willian coming in and Giuliano dropping out following the 5-0 win at home to Bolivia.
Venezuela had no-one but themselves to blame for falling behind early, Hernandez at fault on the back of a horrendous error. The keeper had time to clear the ball but his pass went straight to Jesus, who produced an exquisite lob as Hernandez was left red-faced.
As the half wore on, Venezuela found their feet and managed to get in behind Brazil on more than one occasion but the hosts were fortunate not to fall further behind in the 33rd minute, Paulinho breaking free but his low shot flashing just wide of the post.
Salomon Rondon, Martinez and Co. continued to be a handful for Brazil’s defence without making it pay on the scoreboard as Willian gave Tite’s men a two-goal cushion eight minutes into the second half, latching onto Renato Augusto’s cross at the back post.
Brazil found the back of the net again five minutes later but Jesus was adjudged to be offside, while Rondon’s goal-bound volley was blocked for a corner as Venezuela attempted to get back into the contest.
After the blackout, Rondon again came close to reducing the deficit but Alisson was up to the task to preserve Tite’s perfect start with four wins from as many qualifiers.
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