Wasteful Peru can’t find breakthrough in critical match against Venezuela

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In one of the toughest groups of the Copa America, Peru and Venezuela are fighting for a knockout spot alongside likely title contenders in Brazil, and there probably won’t be room for both teams. That means Saturday’s matchup was nothing less than vital, and Peru was up to the task, but couldn’t find the breakthrough as they wasted 17 shots in a 0-0 draw with 10-man Venezuela.

The game kicked off right from the start, and it appeared that Peru had opened the scoring inside the first 10 minutes on a messy goal scored off a set-piece, as a free-kick curled into the box and Renato Tapia collided with Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez as he got his head to the ball. With the goalkeeper down, Christofer Gonzales pounced right on the penalty spot and picked up the game’s first goal. However, VAR ruled it out for offside after a very lengthy review.

Venezuela’s best chance of the first half came on 22 minutes as Solomon Rondon was through on the doorstep but Pedro Gallese came out to smother the chance right on the line. After the break, Venezuela came close again with Rondon delivering a free-kick under the jumping wall that skittered just wide left.

The second half progressed as one vitally important game would, with back-and-forth flow and heavy physicality. Again Peru thought it had the breakthrough in the 64th minute, but again the offside flag denied them the chance as Edison Flores headed the ball into the back of the net but was over the line on the chance.

The game changed in the 75th minute when Venezuela defender Luis Mago was sent off for his second yellow card when he barged through the back of Andy Polo. Peru began to truly dominate and they came close yet again in a wild exchange that saw Peru shots blocked, saved by Farinez, and come off the post before the offside flag went up. Farinez was needed again with nine minutes to go as he dove left to save a distance effort from substitute Edison Flores. Jefferson Farfan put a header wide moments later, and that was the last big chance Peru would see the rest of the way as they began to waste possession down the end as well.

Venezuela survived to share the points, and now the two teams must differentiate themselves between remaining games against Brazil and Bolivia in Group A play, a monumental task.