VALPARAISO, Chile (AP) - Bolivia scored three unanswered first-half goals and held on for a 3-2 victory over Ecuador on Monday in Group A of the Copa America to record its first victory in the competition in 18 years.
Bolivia has four points from its first two matches in the South America championship, while Ecuador has lost its first two games and is in danger of going out in the first round.
Ronald Raldes scored in the 5th minute, heading in a corner behind Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez. Martin Smedberg scored with a low, 25-meter (yard) shot in the 18th. And Marcelo Moreno converted a penalty in the 43rd as Bolivia took total control of the first half.
“There are a lot of people who didn’t have faith in Bolivia,” coach Mauricio Soria said. “But we showed we can fight.”
Trailing 2-0, Ecuador pressed and had several clear chances to get back into the match. The best came when Enner Valencia converted a penalty in the 38th, but referee Joel Aguilar waved it off for encroachment.
Valencia took the kick again, but Bolivia ‘keeper Romel Quinonez guessed correctly and dived to his right to make the save.
Moreno converted a penalty at the other end minutes later to make it 3-0.
“This is the greatest game of my career,”” Smedberg said. “Now finally, we have something beautiful.”
Ecuador got back into the match in the 48th when Valencia chipped in a close-range shot. The early goal inspired Ecuador to continue pressing with Quinonez forced to make several key saves.
Miller Bolanos cut the deficit to a single goal in the 82nd, scoring from a 30-meter (yard) shot that soared over the head of Quinonez.
Ecuador had half a dozen chances to equalize or win the match with 10 players pressing forward in the final minutes.
Christian Noboa hit the crossbar in the 85th, and Juan Cazares forced Quinonez into a leaping save two minutes later. Cazares also had a key chance in stoppage time.
On Friday, Ecuador plays Mexico and Bolivia face Chile in the final Group A matches.
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