Colombia wrecked the US’ hopes of a winning start to the Copa America Centenario as goals from James Rodriguez and Cristian Zapata gave the South Americans a comfortable 2-0 victory on Friday.
AC Milan’s Zapata and Real Madrid star Rodriguez struck in the first half before a sell-out 67,439 crowd at Levi’s Stadium in northern California to puncture US hopes of emerging from a difficult Group A.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s side had hoped to score an upset victory to emulate the US famous defeat of Colombia at the 1994 World Cup.
However, for long periods on Friday Klinsmann’s men were chasing shadows as the skilful 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists delivered a stinging reality check.
Klinsmann sought to put a positive spin on the game, saying his team had competed as equals.
“For our players it’s really important that they can see we can beat them,” Klinsmann said. “The end result is 2-0, but the players will take a lot out of this game.”
Klinsmann admitted the defeat left his team with little margin for error in their remaining group games against Costa Rica and Paraguay.
“Obviously we have even more hunger in our second game now,” Klinsmann said. “We have our backs against the wall and we need three points against Costa Rica, but there’s a lot of positives.”
A disastrous first half for the hosts saw Colombia take a vice-like grip on the contest.
The Colombians took the lead after only eight minutes when poor marking at a set-piece gifted a chance to Italy-based Zapata.
Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron was caught ball-watching as Edwin Cardona’s corner was curled in and Zapata stole in front of his man to thunder home the finish.
The US struggled to build any sort of momentum after that, with Colombia flooding the midfield and pressing relentlessly.
Colombia dominated territory and possession and carved out the better chances, with Sebastian Perez forcing a diving save from Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan in the 16th minute with a rasping drive.
Monterrey’s Cardona proved to be a menace to the US back four throughout, tormenting Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin in quick succession midway through the half before shooting on goal.
The only US chance of note was a 36th-minute run and shot from Clint Dempsey, whose curling effort whistled just past Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina’s upright.
However, within minutes of that fleeting US opportunity, the hosts were dealt a killer blow when Yedlin was adjudged to have flicked a hand out to block Farid Diaz’s cross.
US players protested, but Mexican referee Roberto Garcia pointed to the spot.
Rodriguez stepped up to stroke home the spot-kick and Colombia were in total control.
Colombia threatened again early in the first half, with Cardona testing Guzan once more with a fierce shot on 50 minutes.
Home hopes were raised when Dempsey saw his header from a Michael Bradley corner cleared off the line by Perez. Dempsey went close again on 64 minutes, his curling free-kick parried clear by Ospina diving to his left.
Yet the US fightback was short-lived and it was Colombia who came closest to scoring next when Carlos Bacca crashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar.
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