Santiago, June 12 (IANS) Chile beat Ecuador 2-0 in the opening match of the Copa America football tournament that saw both teams suffer a penalty and a red card at the National Stadium here.
The match kicked off at 20:30 local time (23:30 GMT) immediately after the 20-minute opening ceremony which included Cirque de Soleil style dancers on Thursday, reports Xinhua.
In the first half, both South American teams struggled to put the ball in the back of the net. However, Chile, managed by Argentinian Jorge Sampaoli, did have a few opportunities even though Ecuador’s defence was tight.
Occasional failures in midfield left Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez looking alone on the attack.
The first goal for Chile came from a penalty taken by Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal after he was fouled by Miller Bolanos just over 20 minutes into the second half.
Six minutes from full-time, Napoli forward Eduardo Vargas took advantage of a perfect pass from Sanchez to score Chile’s second goal of the evening and secure the host nation’s victory.
However, the victory was bittersweet as a total of five yellow cards were dished out by Argentine referee Nestor Pitana (two for Ecuador and three for Chile) with the final one resulting in Matias Fernandez being sent off for a double yellow after a bad tackle. This means that Fernandez will miss Chile’s next match against Mexico on Monday.
The match marked the first one in group A, which also includes Mexico and Bolivia who will play each other on Friday at 20:30 local time (23:30 GMT) to conclude the first matches of the group.
After the match, Chile coach Sampaoli said he and his players valued the 2-0 win, however, he felt that if the opposition had been more on form they could have caused more damage to his team.
“We planned for a match similar to the one we played against them in Brazil (during the qualifiers) having attacking players like (Jorge) Valdivia and Vidal at the backs of (Ecuador’s) quality footballers.
“The plan worked for the first 25 minutes of the match as the opposition became more defeated as they couldn’t find the back of the net. This made them a little inaccurate and after they lost (goals) they didn’t have enough fight left in them to overcome the loss,” said Sampaoli said.
The coach also commented on Vidal’s game, saying that the 28-year-old felt a little under-prepared for the first match of the world’s oldest international continental football contest after playing in the European Champions League final less than a week ago.
“Arturo Vidal had a complicated journey. He felt under-prepared but he finished the match feeling essential,” said Sampaoli, who joined the Chile squad in 2012.
“Ecuador in the first half … had situations that could have complicated things for us. In the second half they hit the crossbar and had a few other opportunities. In this situation, if Ecuador had been more alert, they could have hurt us a little more. But the result was just.”