Saturday, November 12, 2011

Colombia fail to beat Venezuela in World Cup qualifier


Colombia dropped two valuable points in their bid to reach Brazil 2014 Friday after letting slip a one-goal lead against neighbors Venezuela on a rain-soaked night in Barranquilla.

Fredy Guarin's blistering long-range strike got the hosts off to a perfect start in the Metrolpolitano stadium.

But a profligacy in front of goal cost the hosts dear and Frank Feltscher's equalizer 11 minutes from time earned the visitors an ill-deserved point.



Failure to score has contributed greatly to Colombia's 12-year absence from a World Cup finals and Teofilo Gutierrez, Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez all wasted golden chances to put the game to bed before Swiss-born Feltcher slid past David Ospina for a share of the spoils.

It was a game Colombia largely controlled with plenty of positives to admire in the free-flowing and attack-minded approach new coach Leonel Alvarez has breathed into the side.

But how they rued the clinical finishing skills of injured talisman Falcao Garcia as Colombia frittered away their bid of preserving their 100% qualifying start.

Guarin looked to have eased Los Cafeteros's goal-scoring worries with a fabulous 30-yard drive that Venezuelan stopper Renny Vega could only palm into his own goal.

It was the FC Porto midfielder's screamer that settled the hosts early jitters having earlier allowed Nicolas Fedor to aim wide from close-range with the goal gaping invitingly.

Colombia there on in kept Venezuela's attackers at bay, with playmaker Juan Arango kept quiet by the battling performance of Gustavo Bolivar, a late call-up to the side after the injury of Carlos Sanchez.

Impressive too was the increasingly influential role young startlet James Rodriguez brought to the fold, floating invisibly among the Venezuela backline and causing no end of problems.

It was his probing that was largely behind Colombia's most sustained period of pressure at the start of the second half.

But Falcao-replacement Teofilo, a local hero in Barranquilla after his form for local side Junior earlier in his career, couldn't turn Colombia's dominance into goals. And, minutes after the striker wasted an opportunity, James danced through a defender's legs to tee-up Martinez who wastefully slipped the ball wide.

Venezuela had offered little second-half attacking threat, save from a 49-minute Arango free-kick which Ospina did well to tip wide.

But when Fletscher broke the Colombia's off-side trap and slipped past Vega for an unlikely late equalizer, the hosts showed a glimpse of their inexperience and immaturity.

James fell from the stage, Los Cafeteros' passing slipped in quality and Venezuela twice went close late on.

James darted a late free-kick on to the bar as Colombia desperately sought a late winner, but with Argentina arriving in town next Tuesday, a potency in front of goal must be found if Colombia are to avoid another ill-fated World Cup mission.

Image | Reuters