Copa América - Paraguay and Ecuador draw

Mon, 04 Jul 00:41:00 2011

Paraguay and Ecuador played out a relatively entertaining 0-0 draw during their first Group B match of the Copa America in Santa Fe.

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The first half was very entertaining despite the lack of goals. Paraguay asserted themselves on the game from the first whistle and subsequently dominated possession for the first half hour. Ecuador rarely touched the ball during that time, and when they did it was usually to clear their lines.

The first chance of the game came after 12 minutes. Roque Santa Cruz and Lucas Barrios exchanged a number of passes on their way into the Ecuador area but they ultimately lacked communication when it really mattered. Santa Cruz opted to pass one more time but Barrios wasn't expecting it. If he had have been he would have had a free shot from 14 yards.

Six minutes later Paraguay very nearly took the lead. Marcelo Estigarribia's cross wasn't dealt with by the Ecuadorians, allowing Nestor Ortigoza a free shot on goal. Marcelo Eizaga in between the sticks for Ecuador had to get down low to smartly parry away.

On 28 minutes the first half completely changed. And it was all because of one chance that seemed to spark Ecuador into life. Chucho Benitez found himself facing three defenders in the Paraguay half. Instead of holding up play he opted to venture forward and in doing so nearly scored a wonderful goal. The striker nutmegged Aureliano Torres to go one-on-one with Justo Villar, who he rounded, but could not fire into the empty net as he unfortunately lost his footing.

From then on Ecuador had the better of the half. They controlled possession and the pace of the game and nearly took the lead again minutes before half-time as Segundo Castillo's strike from 25 yards shaved the post.

The Ecuadorians started the second half the much better team and had two fairly decent chances within three minutes.

Edison Mendez's well executed free-kick found Felipe Caicedo who turned on the edge of the area before shooting towards the far post. Villar got down smartly to hold on.

Minutes later Caicedo went even closer as his team were given the advantage following a heavy challenger from Ivan Piris. The striker advanced on goal before unleashing an effort from 30 yards. Villar was beaten in goal but the ball flew wide.

The game then settled down and rarely produced any more clear-cut opportunities.

The only two from then on both fell to Paraguay. The first came when Ecuador were caught cold, searching for the opener. Santa Cruz broke down the centre before feeding Estigarribia who dragged his left-footed shot a yard wide.

The final decent chance of the game fell to Santa Cruz. Again the lively Estigarribia was involved as he turned and flicked the ball past two defenders before crossing for the Premier League striker. Santa Cruz's header was pinpoint and required a very impressive reaction save from Elizaga to keep the scores level.

Joshua Hayward / Eurosport

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