Venezuela brought Colombia crashing down to earth with a well-earned 1-0 home victory over their fierce rivals in an enthralling match in Ciudad Guayana, Tuesday.
Colombia dominated the match for long periods, but failed to mount many meaningful attacks, as Salomon Rondon’s well taken 13th-minute goal was enough to decide the tie.
The result sent Venezuela up to fifth in the qualifying table, equal on points with fourth-placed Chile and four points behind Colombia, who slip to third, following Ecuador’s victory against Paraguay.
The game got off to a cagey start, with a 9th-minute breakaway from Colombia’s Pablo Armero the highlight of the opening phase, until a last-ditch tackle from Oswaldo Vizcarrondo denied him the chance of a one-on-one with Venezuela keeper Dani Hernandez.
Three minutes later Colombia’s Juan Cuadrado had an opportunity to break the deadlock, collecting James Rodriguez’s ball on the edge of the box only to send a rasping shot into the side netting.
A minute later Venezuela took the lead, after Tomas Rincon sent a searching ball down the left wing towards Rondon in the Colombian penalty area. With a lot still to do, Rondon took the ball in his stride, rode the challenge of Luis Perea, and thundered a shot into the roof of the net from a tight angle, sending the home fans into raptures.
The goal came as a shock to a Colombia team riding high in confidence after Friday’s 5-0 thumping of Bolivia, but the trip to Venezuela was always going to be a sterner test, against a team which has only lost once at home in this qualifying campaign.
Following the goal, Colombia slowly took control of the game, as Venezuela seemed content to sit back. James Rodriguez was at the center of many of Colombia’s moves, with an industrious display demonstrating the ability which has apparently brought the 21-year-old Porto man on to the radar of Manchester United.
But the final ball for Los Cafeteros was continually lacking as a few scrappy forays resulted in scuffed or half chances, the best of which came from Radamel Falcao, who hit the side netting with a shot from the edge of the area.
The second half started at a frenetic pace, as Colombia sought an early equalizer, Rodriguez sending a 49th-minute left wing cross on to the head of Falcao, only for El Tigre to place his headed lay off closer to the Venezuelan keeper than the onrushing Armero.
While Colombia dominated the early stages of the first half, Venezuela came inches from extending their lead in the 51st minute, as Fernando Aristiguieta pounced on Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina’s parry to send the ball goal-bound from inside the area, only for Perea to slide in and clear the ball off the line.
Minutes later Colombia had a penalty claim waved away as the lively Armero went down easily under the challenge of Venezuela defender Alexander Gonzalez.
Colombia continued to press but the next notable chance again fell to Venezuela, as a 69th-minute break saw defender Oswaldo Viscarrondo send the ball towards substitute Miku, only for the Glasgow Celtic man to flash a bullet header past the post.
Ten minutes later some neat play between Rondon and Miku sent the Scotland-based striker free of his marker inside the Colombian penalty area, but his soft shot was collected by the outstretched Ospina.
Moments later the Colombian fans in the stadium were out of their seats, as Rodriguez sent a curling left wing cross into the path of Falcao, only for the $58 million Atletico Madrid striker to slam his shot into the crossbar.
Frustration began to get the better of Colombia, as balls became sloppy and gaps began to open for the Venezuelans to launch counter attacks, with Rondon’s blistering pace particularly effective.
As the game petered out, the Venezuelan fans produced a deafening roar as the El Vino Tinto, so called becuase of their claret-coloured kit, edged closer to its first ever appearance at a World Cup finals.
Venezuela: D.Hernandez; O. Vizcarrondo, G.Chichero (R.Feltscher 84′), A.Tuñez (A.Florez 61′), A.Gonzalez; J.Arango, C.Gonzalez, F.Lucena, T.Rincon; S. Rondon, F.Ariteguieta (Miku 68′).
Colombia: D.Ospina; L.Perea (A.Ramirez 83′), C.Valdes, A.Aguilar, C.Zuñiga; M.Torres (C.Bacca 75′), E.Valencia, P.Armero, J.Cuadrado (T.Gutierrez 65′); J.Rodriguez; R.Falcao