Two heroic stoppage time goals from Copa America's surprise-package secured a deserved point in an even contest.
Venezuela, fresh off the back of a draw against reigning champion Brazil and a narrow victory over Ecuador, knew that its participation in the quarterfinals was assured, while Paraguay knew a point would guarantee its place in the knock-out stages.
Paraguay looked to have settled into possession the quicker of the two, but it was Venezuela which took the lead. Salomon Rondon took control of the ball after some sloppy passing among the Paraguayan defenders, and blasted a powerful shot from 20 yards which flew past a hapless Justo Villar. It was the first attack of the game, and it ended emphatically.
Despite the Paraguayan dominance in possession, it was living precariously. Alexander Gonzalez defied the offside trap to receive the ball in the box, but scuffed his shot wide. The youngster was soon made to pay for his mistake.
Aureliano Torres put in a good delivery from a set piece, which Barrios headed on to the Venezuela post. A game of pinball ensued in the box, and Gabriel Cichero, usually a reliable force in defense, gifted the ball to Antolin Alcaraz, who finished with aplomb to get his side on level terms.
Finally, 20 minutes into the second period, Paraguay began to turn the screw. Nelson Valdez curled a shot wide from the edge of the box, while Valdez set up Barrios, but a great match-saving tackle from Oswaldo Vizcarrondo kept his side on level terms.
From the resulting corner, however, Paraguay took the lead. Venezuela failed to clear its lines, and the ball fell to Valdez, who fired in a hasty shot. Vega parried the ball brilliantly, but Lucas Barrios was left with the most straight-forward of tap-ins to put his side ahead.
Not to be beaten, Venezuela redoubled their efforts following Barrios’ goal. It was almost gifted an equalizer after some unsure goalkeeping from Villar granted Juan Arango a shot on goal, but the ball only went as far as Christian Riveros, who blocked the strike. Replays showed it struck him on the arm, but a penalty would have been a cruel decision.
After a series of Arango set pieces which Paraguay defended comfortably, Giancarlo Maldonado decided to try his luck from distance. Vega parried his right-footed drive, but there was no Venezuela player to show the instinct Barrios and Alcaraz showed for their opponents.
The contest seemed to be all over after another set piece. Torres swung the ball in from the right hand side, and Riveros was there to beat Rincon at the near post and make it 3-1.
Miku, seizing upon defensive apprehension to finish via a deflection off Torres, gave his side hope, and minutes later the dream was complete. Renny Vega went forward for a corner, and was able to flick the ball on to Grenddy Perozo who seized his opportunity to salvage a draw.
This result sees both sides progress, but their players will not know who they are to face until the completion of Brazil v Ecuador, which kicks off shortly.
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