Pizarro strike earns Peru vital win in Copa America

Valparaiso (Chile), June 19 (IANS) Veteran striker Claudio Pizarro’s second-half goal earned Peru a crucial 1-0 victory over Venezuela and raised their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Copa America football tournament.

The veteran striker, 36, struck with just under 20 minutes remaining to settle a hard-fought encounter at the Estadio Elias Figueroa Brander stadium here on Thursday.

With Venezuela having made a good start and gone close through forward Salomon Rondon, the contest swung in Peru’s favour when Venezuela defender Fernando Amorebieta was sent off shortly before the half-hour mark.

He was given his marching orders for a perceived stamp on midfielder Paolo Guerrero and his side were predictably forced on the defensive following the dismissal. It did look like they might hold on to secure a point, but Pizarro made no mistake when the ball broke invitingly for him in the box and he thumped home a left-footed effort for what would prove the game’s solitary goal.

The result means that all four teams in Group C are now level on three points after two rounds of matches.

The best chance of the first half fell to striker Rondon – the hero for Venezuela in their shock 1-0 win against Colombia last Sunday – in the sixth minute.

A quickly taken free-kick from Alejandro Guerra on the left wing picked out Rondón, who beat the offside trap just outside the six-yard box, but despite getting his outstretched boot to the ball, the Zenit forward was unable to generate enough power to trouble Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

Neither team generated anything clear-cut from that point in the first 45 minutes, though the match sprung into life approaching the half-hour mark, when referee Raul Orozco issued a straight red card to Amorebieta.

Amorebieta and Guerrero battled for possession on the left wing before the former appeared to stamp on his opponent’s knee.

The 30-year-old’s dismissal forced Venezuela into an early reshuffle and substitution, with midfielder Ronald Vargas sacrificed in favour of left-back Gabriel Cichero seven minutes before half-time.

Peru controlled proceedings from the restart, though Rondon still proved to be a handful up front as Venezuela played on the counter, almost breaking through on goal five minutes into the second half.

Peru then went close to scoring just past the hour-mark but Guerrero’s cross eluded his teammates inside the penalty area.

They eventually made their numerical advantage count with 18 minutes remaining via Pizarro, who fired powerfully past Alain Baroja, despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to the ball, as Venezuela’s stubborn resistance was finally broken.

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