Goalkeeper Renny Vega’s unlikely assist helped Venezuela steal a 3-3 draw against Paraguay in Group B of the Copa America on Wednesday.With Venezuela’s quarter-final spot already assured, Paraguay had seemed destined for their first win of the tournament after leading 3-1 as the game ticked over into extra-time in the second half.
But that changed when substitute striker Miku poked home to pull one back in the 90th minute, with Venezuela desperately pushing forward and winning a corner as the seconds dwindled away.
Vega charged forward to contest the corner and succeeded in nodding the ball on for defender Grenddy Perozo to score a dramatic equaliser, in the last piece action of the game.
It sparked wild scenes of celebrations for Venezuela and Vega, while Paraguay’s players looked about in disbelief.
Paraguay had cancelled out Mikel Rondon’s well-hit opener through Antolin Alcaraz’s 33rd-minute goal, after Lucas Barrios’ header had created confusion in the penalty area.
Paraguay took the lead shortly after the hour mark when Barrios scored from point-blank range after a shot from strike partner Nelson Haedo Valdez – a substitute after Roque Santa Cruz went off injured – had been well blocked by Vega.
They seemingly put the game to bed when Cristian Riveros nodded in a corner at the near post on 86 minutes, but Venezuela forged a tremendous finale to the match by refusing to lie down.
The point was enough to send Paraguay into the last eight, but the injury to Santa Cruz and the manner in which they threw away the win will come as some concern to manager Gerardo Martino.
Martino will at least be back on the touchline for the quarter-final, having served a one-match ban for manhandling the referee’s assistant in Paraguay’s second group game against Brazil.