AFP / Quito
• Ecuador coach Gustavo Alfaro furious with decisions by referee Wilmar Roldan
Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker had two red cards overturned by VAR reviews as Brazil hung on for a controversial 1-1 World Cup qualifier draw with Ecuador on Thursday, with both teams having a player dismissed. Alisson could count himself lucky after a straight red card in the first half, for a high boot on Enner Valencia, was downgraded to a yellow and then a second yellow card in injury-time was also overturned on review.
Ecuador’s Argentine coach Gustavo Alfaro was furious after four VAR reviews - two to check possible dismissals and two for penalties originally awarded by Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan - all went against the hosts in Quito. “We’re shocked by the development of the match, by all the strange things, by everything that happened,” said Alfaro. “I don’t want any favours, all I want is justice. We feel that we had the chance to achieve a historic victory taken away from us.”
Even so, the point inches Ecuador closer to World Cup qualification with three games left as they have a seven-point gap to fifth-placed Colombia.
Uruguay also boosted their hopes as Luis Suarez gave them a 1-0 win away to Paraguay. But Chile slipped further away from qualification after a 2-1 defeat at home to Argentina. Brazil and Argentina have already booked their tickets for Qatar. Casemiro gave Brazil, who were missing the injured Neymar, an early lead but Ecuador centre-back Felix Torres equalised 15 minutes from time.
Ecuador should have been in front within two minutes but Valencia somehow missed the target from four yards out. It took just four minutes for Brazil to make Ecuador pay.
Matheus Cunha headed a cross from Philippe Coutinho goalwards and while goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez blocked the ball on the line, Casemiro pounced to stab home the loose ball from a yard out. Ecuador were a mess at the back and Dominguez compounded matters with a rash attempt to reach a Fred through ball before Cunha.
The keeper got his toe to the ball but drove his studs into the forward’s neck with his follow through and was rightly dismissed following a lengthy VAR check.
In an eventful start to the match, Emerson Royal was given his marching orders after picking up two yellow cards inside the first 20 minutes as numeric parity was almost immediately restored.
Five minutes later, Alisson was initially shown a straight red card for an almost identical offence to Dominguez’s.
Having also won the ball at head height, he brought his follow through down in an axe kick on Valencia’s head. But, following a VAR check, Roldan incredibly downgraded the card to a yellow.
Early in the second half, Valencia had another glorious chance to score but headed wide from 12 yards after once again finding space in the box. Ecuador had the ball in the net early in the second half through Michael Estrada but it was ruled out after a linesman flagged for the ball going out of play.
Roldan then signalled a penalty after Raphinha appeared to stand on Pervis Estupinan’s foot in the box, but for the third time VAR ruled in Brazil’s favor and it was chalked off. Ecuador finally equalized when Torres outjumped Casemiro to plant a header into the bottom corner past a helpless Alisson. Roldan then pointed to the spot for a second time deep into injury time after Alisson connected with forward Ayrton Preciado’s head as he punched clear a bouncing ball. The referee also showed him a second yellow card but overturned both that and the penalty after another VAR review.
Both halves included more than 10 minutes of additional time due to the lengthy checks. In Asuncion, Suarez struck a sweet left-foot volley five minutes into the second half to energize Uruguay’s faltering qualification campaign.
Four straight defeats had seen iconic veteran coach Oscar Tabarez sacked after the last round of fixtures in November.
The victory propelled Uruguay into the top four while also putting a serious dent in Paraguay’s hopes of making it to Qatar. English-born Ben Brereton Diaz scored for Chile in Calama but goals from Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez gave Argentina, who rested Lionel Messi, victory. Chile are now three points behind fourth-placed Uruguay with three matches left as seven teams vye for the remaining two automatic qualification spots.
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