Fri, Jul 15, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Paraguay, Venezuela draw in thriller

OPPOSITE REACTIONS:Venezuela barely squeaked through to the next round by scoring twice in just five minutes, while Paraguay were deflated by the late draw

AFP and AP, SALTA, ARGENTINA

A Paraguayan supporter cheers for her team during this year’s Copa America Group B first-round soccer match in Salta, Argentina, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Paraguay were glum at the win that got away, while Venezuela were elated at a rise-off-the--canvas draw at the Copa America on Wednesday.

Paraguay were seemingly home and dry and potentially on their way to winning Group B when they led 3-1 after having gone a goal down early on.

However, Venezuela did not give up, snatching a draw in a pulsating finale.

They can instead go into the last eight on a high, while the Paraguayans were left to feel glum after a third straight draw.

The three points earn them a passage to the last eight as their goal difference was superior to the third finisher in Group A, Costa Rica.

Yet coach Gerardo Martino felt deflated afterwards — especially as it was almost a case of deja vu, his side having also let slip a lead at the death against Brazil.

“This is a step back for us — but Venezuela showed a lot of character to come back,” Martino said. “Against Brazil we were superior and drew and tonight we weren’t so good and we drew again.”

Venezuelan coach Cesar Farias, who will doubtless be on the receiving end of some congratulatory messages from uber-fan Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saluted his charges.

“We thought this would be a very difficult group, that maybe we might go through — but in third place. But we came through unbeaten,” Farias said.

Farias offered reporters a 15-minute lecture after the match, upset that his team is often written off as the weakest in Latin America.

Striker Nicolas Fedor, who scored his side’s second goal before Grenddy Perozo’s brave diving header deep into stoppage time, also lauded the Vinotinto, who are through to the quarters for the second time in succession — but the first ever on foreign soil.

“Above all, we showed we are growing mentally, as despite being down, we kept on pushing and trying to save the situation,” said the forward from Spain’s Getafe, brought on as a sub for Yohandry Orozco on 67 minutes. “I don’t know if a draw is a fair outcome but you can say it was a draw we really fought for and when you work hard you get your reward.”

“We can’t explain this,” Paraguay striker Lucas Barrios said of Venezuela’s late comeback. “In five minutes, they scored two goals. We leave with a sour taste in our mouth.’’

Venezuela had opened the scoring at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena with striker Jose Salomon Rondon’s right-footer from the top of the area in the fourth minute.

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