Venezuela moved top of Copa America Group B courtesy of a 1-0 win over Ecuador on Saturday, after Brazil and Paraguay drew 2-2.A goal from Cesar Gonzalez a minute past the hour mark proved enough for Venezuela to take all three points from their match at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena in Salta.
It was just Venezuela’s third victory in the history of the tournament and moves them two points clear of their more-fancied rivals with one match each left to play.
Venezuela had the best of the early sights of goal, with Newell’s Old Boys defender Gabriel Cichero firing a powerful long-range drive that was well saved by Ecuador goalkeeper Marcelo Elizaga.
Giancarlo Maldonado also went close following a good exchange with Getafe forward Miku.
Ecuador struggled to threaten in the opening 45 minutes and, when they did craft an opening, it was wasted by Christian Benitez.
Miku went close early in the second half after being played in by Giancarlo Maldonado, before Gonzalez broke the deadlock in impressive fashion.
The San Luis winger latched on to a loose ball 25 yards out and fired a powerful strike beyond a helpless Elizaga.
Against the run of play, Ecuador did have chances to draw level late in the match.
First Caicedo broke free of the Venezuela defence to find himself one-on-one with Renny Vega, but he could only produce a tame effort straight at the goalkeeper.
Benitez then drew a smart save from Vega at his near post.
Venezuela successfully negotiated the closing exchanges to record a rare victory and move onto four points at the top of the group.
In the other match on Saturday, Brazil needed a last-minute equaliser to salvage a 2-2 draw in their match against Paraguay.
Mano Menezes’ side had gone ahead seven minutes before half-time through a strike from distance by Shakhtar Donetsk midfielderJadson.
Roque Santa Cruz levelled for Paraguay, with the Manchester City striker finishing on 54 minutes after Marcelo Estigarribia evaded the Brazil defence.
And when Cristian Riveros seized on an error from Barcelona full-back Dani Alves, Nelson Haedo Valdez was on hand to give Paraguay the lead, courtesy of a deflection off centre-back Lucio.
It looked like Brazil were heading for a costly defeat, before former Lyon striker Fred latched on to Ganso’s flick to net the equaliser in the 90th minute.
Brazil now take on Ecuador in Cordoba on Wednesday, while Venezuela tackle Paraguay in Salta.