Paraguay won their second straight penalty shootout to defeat Venezuela and book their spot in the Copa America final.As they did in their quarter-final against Brazil, Paraguay defended grimly for 120 minutes in their semi against Venezuela, holding on for a 0-0 draw before claiming a 5-3 victory in the shootout.
They were reduced to 10 men 13 minutes into extra time when Jonathan Santana received his second yellow card, and Venezuela will be devastated to not have capitalised on the numerical advantage.
Goalkeeper Justo Villar was the hero for Paraguay in the shootout, making the all-important save from Franklin Lucena before Dario Veron smashed home the final spot kick.
The win gives Paraguay the unique achievement of reaching the final without winning a match in regular time, having had three draws in the group stage and two shootout victories in the knockout stages.
Playing in their first ever semi-final at a major competition, Cesar Farias’ Venezuela side took some time to settle as Paraguay enjoyed the better of the early exchanges at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza.
Martin Caceres put in a dangerous cross which only just missed the waiting Lucas Barrios, before Veron powered a pinpoint header towards goal which Venezuelan goalkeeper Renny Vega did well to save low to his left.
Neither side was providing much going forward, but the match came to life 10 minutes before half time when Venezuela had a goal disallowed for offside.
Oswaldo Vizcarrondo thought he had put his side in front when his bullet header found the back of the net, but the ball took the tiniest of deflections of Salomon Rondon, who was standing in an offside position.
The near miss only spurred Venezuela on though, with Alejandro Moreno hitting the crossbar with a header only minutes later.
There was little action after the break though, with both sides seemingly happy for the match to go to extra time and penalties.
Venezuela were inches from taking the lead in the fourth minute of extra time when Miku deflected Rondon’s long-range effort past Villar, only for it to come back off the inside of the upright.
Paraguay received another blow when Santana received his second booking for a robust challenge on Rondon, but they held on to send the match to penalties.
Venezuela had never taken part in a competitive penalty shootout before and it showed, with Villar saving Lucena’s tame penalty to send Paraguay into the final.
They will meet Uruguay in Sunday’s final in Buenos Aires.