James Rodriguez slotted home the only goal of the game against Peru Sunday as Jose Pekerman started his competitive reign as Colombia coach with a bang.
FC Porto maestro Rodriguez finished coolly after a sublime flick from Dorlan Pabon to hand the Argentine manager a precious three points in the race to reach the World Cup 2014 finals in Brazil.
The win maintains Colombia’s 100% away record in the qualifiers and extends their 31-year unbeaten run in the Peruvian capital.
More importantly though, los Cafeteros climb above Ecuador to fifth in the South American heat and are now nicely placed just one point adrift of the automatic spots.
After the disappointing home draw with Venezuela and loss to Argentina last November, Colombia desperately needed to add to their points tally.
But they were made to sweat for the result after a cautious opening 45 minutes that Peru dominated.
Andre Carillo in particular was a constant thorn in the side of a shaken Colombian defense that nervously held firm under long periods of heavy Peruvian pressure.
On 26 minutes goalkeeper David Ospina rescued Colombia with a strong block after makeshift full-back Amaranto Perea wastefully conceded possession to Sporting Lisbon striker Carillo.
And minutes later more ponderous defending allowed Luis Ramirez to crash an effort against the glancing forehead of Aquivaldo Mosquerdo before going out for a corner.
Colombia occasionally threatened on the break where Juan Cuadrado and Falcao both found promising positions without ever testing Peru keeper Diego Penny.
But it was largely a lackluster and timid opening period that star players Falcao and Rodriguez failed to make much of an impact.
All that changed after the break and, after another fine save from Ospina this time from Paolo Guerrero, Colombia took a grip of the game.
Fredy Guarin was instrumental in the wind-change and it was his insight that found Pabon to deliver a world-class flick into the path of Rodriguez who slipped past stopper Penny.
Goal-provider Pabon, who earned his starting place after a blistering goal-scoring campaign for Atletico Nacional, outfoxed two defenders with his perfectly weighted pass. It was a delicious piece of skill that will add to the feverish speculation that a move to Europe is imminent.
Colombia largely controlled proceedings there on in and Falcao almost doubled their lead in the dying minutes but couldn’t direct his header goal-wards after a fine cross from Pabon.
In the end Rodriguez’s strike was decisive and Colombia will approach next week’s showdown with Ecuador in Quito with renewed belief that their 14-year hiatus from a World Cup finals will soon be broken.