Colombia were made to rue numerous wasted chances, as they had to settle for a narrow 1-0 win courtesy of Adrian Ramos' goal on the stroke of half time in Group AColombia overcame a youthful Costa Rica side 1-0 in their opening game of the 2011 Copa America at Estadio 23 de Agosto in Jujuy to go top of Group A.
An edgy start from the 2001 Copa champions saw them thwarted by debutant Leonel Moreira on various occasions in the opposition goal in the first half as Costa Rica withstood the barrage of attacks. A difficult prospect of a match turned into a near-impossible one for the youthful Costa Rica side when Randall Brenes was shown a straight red for a dangerous tackle early in the game.
The opening goal arrived on the stroke of half-time after a period of patient play saw Adrian Ramos slide the ball home for his second international goal after a brilliant ball from Porto's Fredy Guarin. The Colombians failed to capitalise on their dominance, and despite numerous chances late on, were made to settle for a 1-0 win.
The opening exchanges were punctuated by tackles and poor passing, with both sides failing to set an early tempo. The Costa Ricans’ searing pace on the wings caused initial havoc, yet it was Los Cafeteros who instigated attacking chances within the first quarter of an hour with a string of opportunities.
Firstly, a simple ball evaded the defence and found its way to Falcao, but the in-form Porto hitman was denied by a last-ditch tackle from Pedro Leal. Seconds later, Los Ticos were able to breathe easy with Moreira, on his international debut, saving well from Fredy Guarin. The young goalkeeper was forced into a third smart save in as many minutes as Ricardo La Volpe’s youthful side found themselves on the ropes.
The match had evolved into a physical contest from the Costa Rican perspective, with three players picking up bookings in order to stem the fluidity of the Colombian attack in the final third. However, a nasty tackle from captain Randall Brenes on Luis Perea earned him a straight red card in the 28th minute, a decision taken swiftly by referee Enrique Osses.
Colombia had almost found themselves a goal up in fortuitous fashion in the 37th minute after a searching ball from Guarin forced a goalkeeping mix-up between Moreira and Acosta, with Falcao unable to pounce.
The breakthrough finally arrived to appease the frustrated supporters, as a sensational lofted ball from Guarin carved open the defence and found Ramos who was on hand to take control and round the goalkeeper to hand Colombia a slender 1-0 lead at half-time.
The beginning of the second period mirrored that of the first, with Hernan Gomez's side stringing together chances. Moreira was again called into action and pulled off a great stop from substitute Hugo Rodallega. The Wigan man cut in from the left and unleashed a stinging shot which the young goalkeeper was equal to.
Falcao hit the underside of the bar soon after with a header, yet the Porto hitman was at this point failing to conjure up the flashes of brilliance he showed during the club season. Costa Rica went close with a free kick from David Guzman, but were unable to persistently trouble Neco Martinez in the Colombian goal.
Falcao was then replaced by Mainz striker Elkin Soto, which ended a slightly disappointing game for the striker who notched 39 goals in a stellar club campaign.
Colombia had their chances to add to the tally late on through Teofilo Gutierrez and Guarin, but the tournament's supposed dark horses were largely kept at bay by a determined and stubborn Costa Rica side who had one man less for the best par of an hour.
Nevertheless, the solitary goal was enough to send the Colombians top of Group A, but will need to improve on their performance and finishing in their next game against Argentina in Santa Fe on Wednesday evening. Costa Rica encounter Bolivia in Jujuy the following day.