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Venezuela leans on substitutes to edge Ecuador

Substitutes Jhonder Cadiz and Eduard Bello scored 10 minutes apart in the second half and Venezuela rallied for a 2-1 victory against 10-man Ecuador on Saturday in Santa Clara, Calif., in both teams’ Copa America Group B opener.

Ecuador was forced to play with reduced ranks for over an hour after its all-time international goal-scoring leader Enner Valencia was rightly sent off for a violent challenge on Jose Martinez in the 22nd minute.

Jeremy Sarmiento then put Ecuador ahead with a goal in the 40th minute off of a set piece.

Both Venezuelan goal scorers came on at halftime. Cadiz leveled the match in the 64th minute before Bello struck in the 74th to boost Venezuela’s chances of a return to the quarterfinal stage that it last reached in 2019.

Cadiz’s equalizer came from a quickly taken long throw-in from the right side. Salomon Rondon held the ball up against a defender, then laid it back for Cadiz, whose first-time strike took a slight deflection off another Ecuador defender to beat goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez inside the near post.

Rondon was also in the mix during Bello’s match-winner, with his header of an outswinging cross forcing Dominguez into a low, diving stop.

But Dominguez failed to push the ball away from danger, and Bello reacted quickly to stab it over the line from close range to give his side a confidence-boosting victory ahead of its second Group B match against Mexico on Wednesday.

Valencia was dismissed after catching Martinez high and very late with a raised boot in Venezuela’s penalty area.

Valencia was originally cautioned, but the call was upgraded after the referee consulted the replay, meaning Ecuador will be without Valencia for its next group match against Jamaica on Wednesday.

But a side that reached the 2021 Copa America quarterfinals went in front through Sarmiento 18 minutes later.

Venezuela’s Yordan Osorio failed to clear Ecuador’s long diagonal free kick from deep inside the penalty area. Sarmiento was first to the ball, and from about 15 yards out, he hammered a low finish past Rafael Romo’s dive to the bottom right corner of the net.

–Field Level Media

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