Substitute forward Raúl Ruidíaz saved Peru in the 94th minute by heading in the tying goal to finish the match 2-2 with Venezuela on Thursday at the Estadio Nacional in Lima.
The Clutch Sub
Los Incas were on the verge of losing to La Vinotinto for the first time in a World Cup Qualifier match at home. The atmosphere in the Estadio Nacional was tense as the Peruvians were once again attempting to construct another attack. Veteran midfielder Juan Vargas started the attack by finding substitute forward Edison Flores open on the left hand side.
The speedy forward caught up to the pass and immediately crossed the ball into the center of the penalty box. Ruidíaz timed his run and found separation between him and his defender in the heart of the box. The five-foot-six-inches forward then put his head down to head the ball to the bottom right hand corner to tie the game 2-2 in the 94th minute.
Lima exploded and the Peruvians rejoiced as the referee ended the game a few seconds later. La Blanquirroja had climb back down two goals to leave with at least a point in the bag.
However, after the lights have been turned off and the emotions of the fans and the players have settled, this draw for the Incas must be considered a defeat. In reality, the Peruvians failed to convert on multiple opportunities they created in the match, especially in the first half.
Fast Start but Nothing to Show for It
It was clear that Peru was motivated and was hungry to secure their second victory in the CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifications. With 13 matches remaining after this game, there was still enough time for Peru to get their World Cup dreams back on track. However, it had to start against Venezuela.
In the first 25 minutes of the match Los Incas created five shots. However, the game was somehow still a scoreless draw. The Peruvians by that time had three clear goal scoring chances. The Venezuelan goalkeeper Alain Baroja did nothing extraordinary to keep Peru off the score sheet. Instead he simply just placed himself in between the goal and the Peruvians.
The first big miss of the match for La Blanquirroja came at the eighth minute. When Jefferson Farfán had a ball roll right into his path and he was just steps away from the goal. The creative midfielder Christian Cueva did all the hard work before by eluding a defender and then crossed the ball into the box.
Farfán had the right side of the net open and all he had to do was tap it in. However, he failed to go through with the shot and missed the goal just wide of the post. Farfán bailed out Los Llaneros, but by the time the half ended Venezuela had received a few more favors from Peru.
A few minutes later, Claudio Pizarro had a clear header open up for him in the middle of the box. The veteran striker failed to generate any real power behind the ball and the keeper made the easy save. However, Paolo Guerrero, who before this game had scored 25 times for his country, had the biggest miss of the match in the 24th minute.
Venezuela failed to clear the ball out of the danger area. Instead of putting distance on the clearance the ball just went high in the air and dropped to the feet of Farfán, who was near the top of the box. The attacking midfielder quickly volleyed a pass to Guerrero. The Peruvian striker was onside and found an opening in the penalty box.
He controlled the ball well and was left by himself with only the keeper in front of him. Guerrero then took one step towards the goal and passed the ball directly to the keepers’ hands. The Estadio Nacional was in disbelief and Los Incas were stunned that the game was still a scoreless draw. After that miss, La Vinotinto began to gain momentum.
Venezuela Goes on the Offensive
Venezuela started to make runs into the box and connect passes. Their movement on the ball made the Peruvian midfield disappear. La Blanquirroja defense was being bombarded and Guerrero and Pizzaro seemed to be on an island. Finally, the consistent attack of Los Llaneros broke down Peru’s back line in the 32nd minute.
Incas center back Carlos Ascues committed a poor and clumsy tackle in the box. In result, he did not make contact with the ball and fouled the Venezuelan. The referee rewarded La Vinotinto the penalty. Rómulo Otero took no chances as he buried the ball into the back of the net to give the visitors the shocking 1-0 lead.
The dominance of Venezuela continued as they forced the Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to make five saves in the match. By the time half time came, Peru looked exhausted and shell shocked that they were down a goal. Then the match went from bad to a disaster for the home side when Venezuela doubled their lead early in the second half.
Venezuela midfielder Juanpi delivered a ball to the left hand post from a set piece on the right hand side of the field. Defender Mikel Villanueva was open when the cross arrived to his spot. Villanueva kept his cool and volleyed the ball into the back of the net to give the visitors a 2-0 lead in the 57th minute. After Venezuela scored their second goal, Peru’s head coach Ricardo Gareca had seen enough and decided to bring in some subs.
Substitutes Come Through for Peru
He had already brought in midfielder Carlos Lobatón for Renato Tapia in the 51st minute. Three minutes after giving up the second goal, Gareca took risk and subbed off veterans Farfán and Pizarro in the 60th minute. Flores and Ruidíaz came in and their pace and energy impacted the game right away.
Sixty seconds after Ruidíaz entered the game, he was able to assist Peru’s first goal. The athletic five-foot-six-inches forward jumped in the air to flick the ball to an open Guerrero. The striker was frustrated from his earlier miss and fired a low and hard long range shot towards the goal. The shot had a lot of power but very little movement. The ball was heading directly to the keeper and seemed destined to be a routine save.
However, Baroja allowed the ball to hit his knee when he went down to ground. In result, Guerrero hopeful long range shot brought the match to 2-1 at the 61st minute. The 32-year-old striker tied former Peruvian midfielder Teófilo Cubillas for the top goal scorer of Los Incas with 26 goals in the process. El Nene had held on to that record for 38-years until Thursday night in Lima.
However, Peru was still down by a goal and time was starting to run out. La Blanquirroja created ten shots after they tied the match and five of them were from Flores and Ruidíaz.
Guerrero also nearly rewrote the record in the 68th minute when his close rang header struck the crossbar. However, in the final moments of the game Ruidíaz scored the tying goal and made Gareca think about starting him in their next qualifier.
Where They Stand and What Comes Next
With this result, Peru now has four points and is now in eighth place. Colombia defeating Bolivia 3-2 in La Paz on the same day is the reason why the Incas went up in the standings. As for Venezuela they are still in 10th, but at least now they have a point to their name.
La Blanquirroja and La Vinotinto will both be back in action on Tuesday. Venezuela will be hosting Chile at the Estadio Agustía. While the Peruvians will be hitting the road as they will clash with Uruguay at the Estadio Centernario.