Antofagasta (Chile), June 17 (IANS) A fluke goal from Edgar Benitez proved enough for Paraguay to edge out Group B rivals Jamaica by a 1-0 scoreline here in a Copa America match.
The forward was in the right place to profit from an error by Jamaica goalkeeper Duwayne Kerr, who headed an attempted clearance directly against the onrushing player on Tuesday.
Stranded outside of his area, Kerr could only watch on as the ball trickled into the back of his unguarded net, giving Paraguay a deserved half-time lead.
Benitez’s moment of good fortune proved enough to give coach Ramón Diaz his first win since taking charge.
The victory takes them on to four points after two matches, while Jamaica are still yet to get off the mark after suffering a second successive 1-0 loss.
Quarter-finals are all but a formality now for Paraguay, who have only gone beyond the last eight of the Copa America once, when they made the final in 2011.
They were the better side in the first half against Jamaica, yet needed Kerr’s assistance to get the goal their dominance merited.
The keeper rushed out of his area to deal with a lofted ball through from Victor Caceres, even though he could have waited for it to come to him.
His decision proved a costly one as he nodded straight onto Benitez’s thigh.
Roque Santa Cruz had three on-target strikes in the first half alone, the number nine’s best effort coming in the 32nd minute when he forced a reflex save from Kerr with a stunning volley from 20 yards out.
Pablo Aguilar’s header back across goal found Victor Caceres at the far post early in the second half, and while the midfielder volleyed past Kerr, the goal was ruled out for offside.
Caceres went on a winding run moments later, finishing with a lashing strike, which was parried behind the posts by Kerr as Paraguay threatened to kill off the contest.
Miguel Samudio very nearly did just that on the hour mark.
In acres of space, the left winger charged forward from his own half, played a one-two pass with Bobadilla, before curling a left-foot strike on goal – which hit the crossbar and stayed out.
Simon Dawkins was lucky to stay on the pitch, after a studs-up challenge on Caceres in the 67th minute – and referee Carlos Vera sought to send one of Winfried Schafer’s assistants to the stands as a result.
Paraguay should have had a penalty inside the final 20 minutes, with Jamaica defender Adrian Mariappa blocking a Santa Cruz header with his raised arm – but Vera was unsighted.
Garath McCleary fired a bullet from range that just went wide of the right post, leaving Jamaica without a goal or a point to their name in the tournament so far.