Colombia, the 2001 champions, seized the initiative in Argentina’s Copa America Group A on Saturday by beating 10-man Costa Rica 1-0 at Jujuy.
Adrian Ramos struck on the stroke of half-time to give the ‘Cafeteros’ a potentially crucial win as they moved ahead of hosts Argentina, who could only manage a 1-1 draw in Friday’s curtain-raiser with Bolivia.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Leonel Moreira performed heroics to keep the margin down but the special guests from Central America, replacing fellow invitees Japan, were dealt a body blow in the 27th minute when winger Randall Brenes was shown a straight red card for a bad foul on Amaranto Perea.
Moreira was unable to keep out Ramos’ meaty effort but otherwise the youngster acquitted himself well.
The 21-year-old from Herediano was standing in for Esteban Alvarado of Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, who left the squad to return to Europe last week to face allegations of spousal abuse.
Porto’s Freddy Guarin threaded the ball through for Ramos to beat Moreira as he tried in vain to close the forward down.
“It’s great to start off with a win — it’s a real confidence boost,” said Ramos, of German side Hertha Berlin.
Ramos and Hugo Rodallega were both denied by the goalkeeper thereafter as Colombia strove to build on their lead, before Porto star Radamel Falcao headed against the bar as another chance went begging.