Santiago, June 18 (IANS) Brazil’s 11-game winning sequence came to an end after a first-half strike from Jeison Murillo gave Colombia a 1-0 victory in their Copa America Group C clash.
The Inter Milan defender put his team ahead in the 36th minute at the Estadio Monumental here on Wednesday with a low finish into the far corner after a Juan Cuadrado set piece. The result rekindled Colombia’s hopes of winning a second Copa America title following their shock 0-1 loss to Venezuela on Sunday, reports Xinhua.
Brazil’s misery was compounded by a red card to Neymar after the final whistle following an altercation with Colombia striker Carlos Bacca, who was also dismissed by referee Enrique Osses.
Neymar had already been shown a yellow card in the first half for a deliberate hand ball and will now miss Brazil’s crucial final group match against Venezuela on Sunday.
It was only Colombia’s third victory in their past 27 encounters against Brazil, who had not lost since Dunga took over as coach for a second time after last year’s World Cup. Despite their win, Colombia remain third in Group C, behind Brazil and Venezuela on goal difference. Venezuela have the chance to move clear to top spot if they beat last-placed Peru on Thursday.
Colombia looked the superior team from the outset despite Brazil’s pre-match favouritism.
Radamel Falcao pulled an early shot wide of the target and Brazil goalkeeper Jefferson was forced to tip a whistling effort from Cuadrado around the post.
‘Los Cafeteros’ broke the deadlock following a free-kick awarded for a needless foul from Brazil’s Fred. The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder clattered into Falcao when the Colombia captain was innocuously hemmed against the touchline.
The resultant set piece taken by Cuadrado led to a penalty area scramble before the ball spilled to Murillo, who lashed a low shot beyond an outstretched Jefferson. Far from sparking Brazil into life, the goal served to swing the momentum further Colombia’s way.
Pablo Armero’s cross was just out of reach of a lunging Teofilo Gutierrez and Falcao, on the counter-attack, blazed a shot over the bar when he had options on either side.
After a quiet start, James Rodriguez looked increasingly dangerous in his role on the left side of midfield. The Real Madrid No.10 initiated a move that brought the Colombia-dominated crowd to its feet just before halftime. He beat his marker with some slick footwork before crossing to Gutierrez, whose wonderful back-heel set up Cuadrado. But the Chelsea winger suffered from a rush of blood, blasting his attempt over the bar.
Brazil’s best chance of the half came just before the interval when Neymar’s header from a Dani Alves cross was kept out by David Ospina.
Brazil coach Dunga brought on Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho at halftime to replace the ineffective Fred. His introduction helped Brazil win a greater share of possession but they still lacked cutting edge in attack.
Neymar rarely looked threatening while Firmino had a night he will quickly want to forget. The Hoffenheim forward, who came into the starting line-up for Diego Tardelli, was the latest victim of Brazil’s central striker curse, failing to click alongside Neymar.
The low point of his night came just before the hour when Murillo’s backpass to goalkeeper David Ospina was cut out by Elias. The ball spilled to Firmino at the top of the box but the 23-year-old somehow managed to miss the target with Ospina grounded.
Brazil struggled to create clear scoring chances while Colombia continued to menace Brazil’s defence on the counterattack. Rodriguez almost doubled his side’s lead when he rode a tackle and broke free of two defenders before shooting just wide of Jefferson’s far post.