Conmebol World Cup Qualifying Round-up: Matias Fernandez inspires Chile to a late win in Venezuela

The Sporting Lisbon midfielder was the best player on the pitch in Puerto la Cruz and his 85th minute strike helped move Claudio Borghi's side to the top of the group
3-1 Paraguay

Paraguay succumbed to the altitude of La Paz as they were defeated 3-1 by Bolivia with two strikes from Pablo Escobar providing the difference.

The pitch at the Hernando Siles stadium was in terrible condition but that did not stop Gustavo Quinteros' side from taking the lead after just 10 minutes. Alcides Pena's volley from inside the box seemed destined to go closer to the corner flag it took a wicked deflection off of Adalberto Ramon and Justo Villar was unable to keep it out.

The game was fairly evenly contested but as it wore on the visitors became increasingly lethargic and Escobar made the most of it in the closing stages of the game. Gualberto Mojica missed a penalty for the hosts but with 70 minutes on the clock Escobar picked the ball up on the left before dribbling into the box and unleashing a teriffic strike that beat Villar. Ten minutes later he met Marcelo Martin's cross at the back post to stab in the game's third goal.

Paraguay pulled one back through Cristian Riveros who drilled the ball into the back of the net in the dying stages but it was not enough to stop Bolivia from moving above them to seventh place on goal difference. However, La Verde could face disciplinary action for having coach Quinteros on the touchline despite being sent off in the previous fixture against Chile.

Venezuela 0-2

Chile left it late to secure a valuable 2-0 victory over Venezuela in Puerto la Cruz that sent them to the top of the group.

The Vinotinto began by pressing Chile high up the pitch from the early stage and forced them deep into their own half. The home crowd soon roared triumphantly when Grenddy Perozo nodded in from a free kick only to see the assistant referee raise his flag and rule the goal out for offside. Chile soon got a foothold in the game and eked out chances to shoot through Marcelo Diaz, Matias Fernandez and Eugenio Mena who were all unable to trouble Renny Vega. Juan Arango's ferocious strike that whislted past the post was Venezuela's best chance shortly before the break.

The second half offered more of the same but Humberto Suazo came closest of anyone to breaking the deadlock when he rattled the post after working some space in the area. Claudio Borghi's men continued to create the better chances with Venezuela finding attacking opportunities limited as possession remained elusive. With 15 minutes remaining Fernandez's deflected cross almost caught Vega out and the keeper was forced to claw the ball of the line. After hitting the post moments later, Fernandez finally found net with just five minutes remaining after pouncing on the ball in the area and striking across goal. There was still time for the visitors to add another after some excellent interplay between Sebastian Pinto and Charles Aranguiz ended with a cutback for the Universidad de Chile midfielder to slide in from the edge of the six-yard box.

The win puts Chile two points clear of Argentina at the top of the group but the Albiceleste hold a game in hand. The Vinotinto will be disappointed to have surrendered the game so late on and could drop out of the top four depending on the result between Ecuador and Colombia.

Uruguay 4-2

A gripping qualifier in Montevideo ended with the Celeste closing in on the summit of the Conmebol standings, fighting off the challenge of a brave Peru side who battled back into the match.

Having dropped points in the Centenario with last week's draw against Venezuela, the Copa America holders wasted no time in taking the lead against the Inca when Luis Suarez turned in with only 14 minutes on the clock. Maxi Pereira was next on the scoresheet, bundling home from short range to put his side two up before Diego Godin's own goal sent the two teams into half time at 2-1.

Deprived of stars like Claudio Pizarro, Juan Manuel Vargas and Jefferson Farfan, the Peruvians nevertheless threw everything into attack and were rewarded when Paolo Guerrero converted the equaliser minutes after the restart. An astonishing save from Diego Penny then denied Diego Forlan from the penalty spot, but Uruguay continued to look dangerous and finally took the points thanks to late strikes from Cristian Rodriguez and Sebastian Eguren.

The win means Oscar Tabarez's men leapfrog Argentina into second and trail leaders Chile by one point, with a game in hand still to play. The Charrua are also the only unbeaten team left in the South American World Cup qualifying campaign; Peru, meanwhile, lie bottom of the pile thanks to Bolivia's win over Paraguay.

Ecuador 1-0

Ecuador deservedly overcame a poor Colombian side following a very uneven match in Quito. The home team took all three points after Christian Benitez’s 64th minute strike as Colombia failed to create any real opportunities throughout the ninety minutes.

Ecuador impressed, particularly in the second half, as they created the majority of chances whilst keeping Ospina’s goal under siege. Colombia struggled to keep possession from the start and rarely advanced into the opposition’s half to cause an attacking threat.

La Tri broke the deadlock early in the second half as Benitez flicked in a header at the far post. Segundo Castillo collected the ball from a short corner and swung in a cross towards the near post. Colombian centre back, Aquivaldo Mosquera, tried to clear the ball with a diving header, however instead deflected the ball towards Christian Benitez at the back post, who was completely unmarked.

With less than five minutes remaining in Ecuador, Cristian Noboa was shown a straight red card for a dangerous tackle from behind on Atletico Madrid’s front man, Falcao. However, the ten men of Ecuador were able to hold on to claim all three points.

La Tri were the better side and deserved their victory. The side have now moved above Colombia in the qualification table and into the last remaining qualification place, 4th. Jose Pekerman has now lost his first competitive match as the manager of Los Cafeteros as his Colombian side drop to 6th position in the league.