Bolivia turn the screw through some fine individual performances
It was time for kick-off in CONMEBOL Group 1, and it is probably fair to say that it was the two outsiders commencing the action, given the fact that the remaining team in the pool, favourites Uruguay, would embark on their campaign next weekend. Hosts Bolivia and visitors Peru had both had poor Copa América campaigns, and though one would always expect the Bolivians to give a fine account of themselves at home in the La Paz altitude, their showings away from home would typically leave them somewhat off the pace. The Peruvians had not quite managed to bridge the generational gap following the retirement of their 1978 and 1982 core, and even here in Bolivia they were little more than outsiders.
Team news Bolivia
In this Bolivia’s first squad post Copa América, manager Jorge Habegger had ultimately picked five players who had not been among the 20 selected for the tournament in Brazil. A month and ten days had passed since their final game in that continental championships, a tournament from which they had been dispatched without scoring a single goal in four matches.
The five players coming in were experienced goalkeeper Carlos Trucco, left-sided defender Roberto Pérez, central midfielders Vladimir Soria and Erwin Romero, as well as striker William Ramallo.
There were players who had featured heavily during the Copa which had been omitted: Goalkeeper Marco Barrero, defender Carlos Arias and defensive midfielder Eduardo Villegas, who had all started three matches in Brazil. 29 year old midfielder José Milton Melgar had, according to some sources, been their best player during that tournament. He was still present, in addition to two likely candidates for starting roles: Soria and Romero, the latter another player the ‘wrong’ side of 30. In goalkeeper Luis Galarza and libero Ricardo Fontana, they had two players edging closer to 40: Both were 38! It was a squad with a fairly high average age which Habegger had selected for this their opening qualifier.
Beating Peru, the only other team which had left the Copa without a win to their name, was essential for Bolivia to retain even the faintest of hopes for qualification. Only the group winners would progress, and Uruguay were favourites by some distance.
Team news Peru
Brazilian coach ‘Pepe’ had been brought in earlier in the year with the ambition to build a team for the World Cup qualification. Along the way had come the Copa América, which had been a stage for him and his squad to test themselves ahead of the major event. They had started disastrously, shipping five goals against Paraguay, though they would redeem themselves by rounding the tournament off with drawing thrice in succession. They had been one of only two teams during the tournament to even keep Brazil from winning, as they had achieved a very creditable 0-0 tie in both countries’ second matches.
‘Pepe’ had picked three players in this 16 man strong matchday squad who had not made it among the 20 for the Copa América. They were goalkeeper Gustavo Gonzáles and midfielders Fidel Suárez and Jesús Torrealba. This meant that 13 from the squad which had represented Peru in Brazil were still present.
Absent from the squad which had participated in the continental championships, there was one particularly noticeable star: 31 year old campaigner Julio César Uribe. The attacking midfielder, who had featured during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Peru’s last World Cup participation, was nowhere to be seen. He would leave big boots to fill. Of their four goals in the Copa, two had been scored by Hirano, a player hailing from the country’s Japanese minority, and one by Navarro. Both forwards had been starters in all four Copa América matches, and also in their one friendly post-tournament and before the start of the qualification: a 2-1 loss in Chile on 25 July. Their final Copa goalscorer had been young midfielder Juan Reynoso.
Peru were a 4-4-2 team under ‘Pepe’. It would be interesting to see whether Sporting Cristal’s Francesco Manassero would be the player to replace Uribe in the starting eleven. He had featured in three of their four Copa ties.
The main officiating task had gone to Colombian referee Armando Pérez Hoyos, a 37 year old. He was relatively tall at 6’3, though this had not prevented him from being kidnapped in the city of Medellín the previous year. The perpetrators had been a group of men who called themselves “representatives from six professional clubs”, and were connected with the drugs trafficking of the infamous cartels in the country. He was released after 20 hours in captivity, having been instructed to “not make the wrong decisions”. He had been a FIFA referee since 1984.
He had officiated in the Copa Libertadores in ’85, ’87, ’88 and earlier in ’89, while he had once run the rule over a game in the Copa América: The group stage meeting between Argentina and Peru (1-1) in 1987. He had only recently returned from the U16 World Cup in Scotland, where he had been appointed for matches between Scotland v Ghana and Nigeria v Saudi Arabia.
This was his World Cup qualification debut.
The two countries share a thousand mile long border, but the number of previous clashes was not as high as could perhaps have been guessed: 22 was the precise number. Just four of these had been classified as ‘friendlies’, while they had met in two previous World Cup qualifications: For the 1970 tournament in Mexico, when both had won their respective home matches, as well as during the final round of qualification before the 1978 competition in Argentina. A strong Peru side had won 5-0, and thus easily joined Brazil for the World Cup.
15-3-4 were the stats in Peru’s favour ahead of this World Cup qualification meeting. The most recent encounter had been the 0-0 friendly clash in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in ’85. Two from the 13 players who had been in action for Peru that May afternoon across the border were still in the squad: defender Pedro Requena and forward Franco Navarro. For this afternoon’s hosts, the figure was five. The quintet were goalkeeper Luis Galarza, defender Roberto Pérez, and midfielders Carlos Borja, Milton Melgar and Erwin Romero.
|1 Luis Galarza||76′||38||Bolívar|
|3 Ricardo Fontana||38||The Strongest|
|5 Roberto Pérez||29||Blooming|
|6 Vladimir Soria||25||Bolívar|
|7 José Milton Melgar||29||Bolívar|
|8 Carlos Borja (c)||32||Bolívar|
|10 Erwin Romero||32||Blooming|
|14 Eligio Martínez||34||The Strongest|
|17 Francisco Takeo||sub h-t||23||Destroyers|
|18 William Ramallo||26||Destroyers|
|19 Álvaro Peña||25′, sub 68′||24||Blooming|
|4 Marcos Ferrufino||26||Bolívar|
|11 Rómer Roca||on 68′||23||Oriente Petrolero|
|16 Erwin Sánchez||on h-t||19||Bolívar|
|20 Carlos Trucco||32||Oriente Petrolero|
|22 Marco Etcheverry||18||Bolívar|
|22 Jesús Purizaga||44′||29||Sporting Cristal|
|3 Juan Reynoso||sub 67′||19||Alianza Lima|
|5 Pedro Requena||82′||28||Universitario de Deportes|
|6 José Carranza||10′||25||Universitario de Deportes|
|8 José del Solar||21||Universitario de Deportes|
|9 Franco Navarro||sub 70′||27||Unión de Santa Fe|
|11 Jorge Hirano||33||Bolívar|
|13 Wilmar Valencia||27||Blooming|
|14 Percy Olivares||44′||21||Sporting Cristal|
|15 Fidel Suárez||26||Universitario de Deportes|
|16 Jorge Olaechea (c)||32||Sporting Cristal|
|1 Gustavo Gonzáles||25||Sporting Cristal|
|7 Francesco Manassero||25||Sporting Cristal|
|12 Jorge Arteaga||22||Sporting Cristal|
|17 Jesús Torrealba||on 67′||27||Universitario de Deportes|
|20 Eduardo Rey Muñoz||on 70′||32||Universitario de Deportes|
The Estadio Hernando Siles in Bolivia’s high-altitude capital La Paz was packed to the rafters, as the proverb goes. It is situated in the city’s Miraflores area, pretty much right in the centre. The official attendance from the game is 43,000, though the capacity was said to be nearly 50,000 at the time, so an unofficial attendance would probably approach that figure.
One could see that it was quite windy, judging by how paper-like objects were flying around just prior to kick-off, and later, when the corner flags came into the picture, this impression would only be solidified. The Colombian referee had done away with all the pre-match formalities, and it was the visitors who would commence the action in this qualifying Group 1 of the CONMEBOL confederation. Kicking us under way were Peru’s strike force of Jorge Hirano and Franco Navarro. The former of the two was actually playing in his home stadium, as he was on the books of Bolívar, the leading domestic club in Bolivia. They’d won the league title in both ’87 and ’88, though they would see city rivals The Strongest claim the honour now in 1989. Peru were attacking towards the left as we were looking.
The opening few minutes are quite frantic; neither side manages to get into much of a rhythm. They had both obviously failed to win from a combined total of eight matches during the Copa América, and confidence in either camp was most likely not soaring through the roof. Still, there were several players attempting perhaps a little too much in the early sequences, especially as the ball travelled very quickly due to a combination of the altitude and the wind. The condition of the pitch looked sound; it appeared even all across, though it had probably not been watered prior to kick-off.
Bolivia had players back which clearly seemed to strengthen their cause since the pretty bleak Copa América showing. They had looked whafer thin in midfield during a 5-0 rout against Chile, and this area was fortified through the arrival to the squad by players like Vladimir Soria and Erwin Romero. The latter, in particular, sought to be on the ball, and he would move swiftly towards the attacking centre or left handed channel. Romero, of Blooming, the leading club in Santa Cruz, the country’s most populated city, was at 32 one of five players in the home side’s starting eleven beyond 30. Still, he had the enthusiasm of someone considerably younger, and he would continue to pose a threat through his ability to find space between the visitors’ midfield and defence. Romero had plenty of technical skills, and he oozed calmness in possession. He seemed a big step up from anything which they’d offered in an attacking sense during the continental championships.
In the visitors’ ranks, their most influental player early on was probably goalkeeper Jesús Purizaga. Aged 29, the Sporting Cristal, Lima-based, custodian was known for a bit of eccentricity, a commodity rarely lost on a goalkeeper from these shores. He had been sent off in the second half of the 0-0 draw against Brazil for altercations with both of the home side’s substitutes, Baltazar and Renato Gaúcho respectively. Purizaga was said to model his game on former Peru great Ramón Quiroga, who had also served the same Lima club, and who was famous for his World Cup participation with Peru both in 1978 and in 1982. A relatively unknown fact is that Quiroga had been born in Rosario, Argentina, the city of the much-discussed 6-0 thrashing which the 1978 hosts had dished out on the Peruvians to earn themselves a place in that year’s final. Digression over. Purizaga had to save a low drive from Bolivia left-back Roberto Pérez just over three minutes in, and he looked confident in how he collected the ball.
There’s a booking as the game’s just passed the nine minute mark. It is Peru’s right-back José Carranza who has his name taken down by the referee, and he could hardly oppose. Rather unmotivatedly, he had hacked down Soria with the latter trying to shield the ball around midway inside the Peruvian half. There was little imminent danger, and for a full-back to earn a yellow card in such fashion early doors rarely spells good fortune. The Colombian official had been in close proximity to events, and there was little complaining seen from either of the visiting players.
Bolivia: a run through the team
After losing their opening Copa América tie 3-0 to Uruguay, Bolivia had seemed to emphasize on defensive security ahead of attacking flair from the second round of games and onwards. This saw them switch from four to five across the back under relatively new manager Jorge Habegger, who had led Bolívar to those two earlier mentioned, most recent league titles. The Argentinian coach appeared someone capable of and interested in switching his numbers combinations around, as that 5-3-2 Copa formation was now quite a distinct 4-4-2. This was clearly also motivated by the fact that he had other players available to him.
In that big defeat against the Chileans, Bolivia ‘keeper Marco Barrero had hardly flattered himself. In fact, he ought to have done better for at least a couple of the goals, and he had promptly been replaced by the ageing Luis Galarza for their final match of the tournament. They went on to hold Argentina to 0-0. Galarza, 38, had been selected once again, and he was one of four Bolívar players in the home side’s starting eleven. Furthermore, Habegger knew his capability very well.
The four men which were lined up immediately ahead of Galarza in the Bolivians’ defence, were, right to left: Carlos Borja – Ricardo Fontana – Eligio Martínez – Roberto Pérez. Three of them had featured during the Copa América, with left-back Pérez the sole newcomer. Not that he lacked experience at 29. He was from San José, a club from the city of Oruro in central western Bolivia. It had been Pérez who had tested Purizaga with that early low drive, and he appeared to be someone with an attacking instinct. At home against an opponent which Bolivia were thought to be at least on par with, his inclusion made a lot of sense.
Appearing in the libero position for the hosts was Fontana, the team’s other 38 year old. A crucial member of capital club The Strongest, he was obviously a player with a wealth of experience, even if his age also revealed that speed was no longer his greatest asset. Up against a particularly tricky forward like the small Hirano, it could pose a problem if Bolivia pushed too high, as Fontana’s central defensive partner Martínez also could not use acceleration or speed to his advantage. Both were relatively solidly built, and they would give decent accounts of themselves whenever the ball came airborn. Not that it did very often, with the visitors realizing their sub-rank in this respect.
If Pérez was looking to move forward from his left-back position, it was hardly as if right-back Borja was prone to only remaining inside his own half. No, the team captain, also 32, relished any opportunity of moving inside the visitors’ half of the pitch, and he would continue to pose an attacking threat from the right hand side. Bolivia played with a narrow midfield, and so their full-backs were needed to keep width, and Borja also played with plenty of vigour and enthusiasm. In fact, he was the one of the two full-backs who would with the greater frequency make it all the way to the opposition’s byline. Defensively, he would be challenged from time to time by Hirano, who often sought towards left-handed attacking territory for the visitors.
The four midfielders for the home side were positioned in a diamond-like shape, with at least three of them operating according to relatively central instructions. At the back of midfield sat 25 year old Soria, an agile and mobile player who worked with a defensive mindset. He would easily hand the ball over to colleagues of higher rank, though he would prove his worth in breaking up the Peruvians’ play. Soria was another in that Bolívar quartet.
Acting as a second in command among the host players was Milton Melgar, who completed the Bolívar contingent. He had been present during the Copa, and had been said to leave the tournament with his fine reputation intact. On this occasion, the 29 year old was working slightly to the right of centre. He would at times be fed the ball by Soria behind him, and he was not afraid to transport and take a player on, even if he, too, realized who the primary playmaking role belonged to: Erwin Romero. The Blooming ace would work with Soria and Melgar in the centre, though with a somewhat more attacking outset, where he was operating towards the left-handed channel.
To complete the midfield four, Habegger had given the more attacking role to the team’s youngest member: Francisco Takeo of Santa Cruz club Destroyers. At 23, he was a mere fledling in these surroundings, and he would often make use of the attacking right-handed channel. However, should one see Bolivia’s midfield formation as a diamond, he was the player at the helm among the quartet, at times also coming across to left-sided areas. He had that natural low centre of gravity, though he did not leave a big impression in these early stages.
Up top, the home forward pairing of William Ramallo, the second Destroyers player in the team, and Álvaro Peña were looking to exploit any weakness in the visitors’ defensive third of the pitch. It was the latter who looked the more enterprising player so far, and with his movement, he had worked himself into a shooting position on five minutes. His attempt from a full 25 yards had ended well over, though. Ramallo had not seen much of the ball, though he looked to be of decent build, and he was clearly someone who would put himself about in challenges with the Peruvian defence.
Bolivia on top
Before 13 minutes, Bolivia have tested Purizaga with three almost identical efforts. Pérez had been the first player to try a low, skimming shot from the left hand channel, and in the wake of Carranza’s yellow, Romero hit a similar effort from just about the same range. The Bolivian playmaker was capable of both passing and shooting with both his feet, and on this occasion he had struck it with his left. There was fine power behind it, but comfortable in the end for the ‘keeper. Purizaga shuts Bolivia out a third time when he safely gathers Pérez’ free-kick, yet again from the same territory. Have the Bolivians spotted a weakness in the Peru number 1’s ability to deal with low shots?
The game is developing into a possession based exercise for the hosts, who are finding Peru quite deep. Obviously, there’s a big advantage for the hosts playing at an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet (more than 3600 meters), so the Peruvian tactics of playing defensively could very well be pre-meditated. The Bolivian players have few problems stroking the ball between themselves, and they predominantly have eight-nine players inside the visitors’ half. They do need to be wary of any possible counter, which appears to be Peru’s main weapon, as they have a quick strike force in Franco Navarro and the nippy, little Hirano.
Peru do not really have a player type like either Melgar or Romero, who are the two performers the most comfortable in possession among all 22 out on the pitch. Hence, they struggle to keep any kind of midfield momentum, usually ending up with playing it into the channels for either forward to try and run on to. Hirano, the La Paz based among the two visiting strikers, is typically orientated towards the left, but it is his partner Navarro who will arrive at Peru’s best opportunity yet when he seizes onto a ball played into space and inside the right hand corner of the penalty area. Navarro strikes it diagonally first time, but he just misses out on the target by a yard or so. Galarza is fortunate to keep his sheet clean with eleven minutes on the clock.
We look closer at Peru
With a quarter of an hour on the clock, it is time to have a closer look at the visitors’ line-up. Like one had seen from them during their winless Copa América campaign, they were in 4-4-2. Like his counterpart in the dugout, Habegger, Peru’s coach ‘Pepe’ Macia was not long ago acquired in order to try and put together a run of qualification results which could take the country to the World Cup. He was said to be a fairly expensive man to the Peruvian FA, so they’d want to see results sooner rather than later. Bolivia away was far from an ideal place to start.
Goalkeeper Purizaga’s been mentioned on a number of occasions already, as he’s easily been the more busy of the two ‘keepers. The four men in the defensive line immediately ahead of him were, right to left: José Carranza – Pedro Requena – Jorge Olaechea – Percy Olivares. The right-sided defender was already walking a bit of a tightrope due to his tenth minute yellow card, though he would continue with some hazardous play, not waiting long until seizing on another opportunity to mow an opponent down: On 16 minutes, he clattered into Romero to the right of the penalty area, and though the referee does not appear to even contemplate a card, it was not much of an improvement on the ‘tackle’ which had earned the defender his yellow. On his one attempt at coming forward, Carranza had displayed a very basic level of technical ability when trying to make it past Pérez in order to get to the byline. He’d failed miserably.
Peru’s libero and captain was the team’s second oldest player, and one with a World Cup pedigree: Jorge Olaechea of Sporting Cristal, from where he was one of three in the eleven. He did appear to be very influental, and someone whom his team mates would listen to. Olaechea seemed to be verbally communicating a lot, and though his position as the spare man in defence did not see him extremely deep, this had to do with the highly defensive nature of the entire visiting team, and at least their two banks of four. Olaechea would also, typically, be the one who would punt the ball in the forward direction, often aiming it towards the channels.
Playing alongside the captain was Pedro Requena, a 28 year old from Universitario de Deportes, from where no less than four players hailed. Requena was probably the team’s strongest player in aerial combat, and he would come up for whenever there was an opportunity to hit a set-piece into the hosts’ penalty area. He would be tussling with both the home side’s forwards, and he would be giving a decent account of himself. He seemed a low-key player, not someone who would step into the limelight, certainly not for promoting himself unnecessarily, but he was efficient alongside Olaechea.
In the left-back position, ‘Pepe’ had put faith in the lean and elegant Percy Olivares, at 21 certainly a fine prospect from Sporting Cristal. He had played in all their Copa América ties, and seemed a foregone conclusion in the eleven at this point. Olivares would need to look out for Bolivia’s Borja making headway along the home side’s right, and the pair would tussle along the ground time and again. Olivares was not afraid to put himself about, although his game was not predominantly about physicality. He was much more composed than the opposite full-back, and he was not afraid to commit in coming forward. He had more attacking freedom than Carranza, though for obvious reasons. He also possessed a decent left foot for crossing. He lent a sound impression.
While Bolivia’s midfield was constructed in the shape of a diamond, Peru’s was far more conventional. They had the team’s youngest player, Juan Reynoso, along the right. The 19 year old from Alianza Lima, the solitary player from there, struggled to make his mark on the game, as he became quite anonymous along the flank. Given the fact that Peru had Carranza in the full-back position behind him, the visitors were operating with quite a punchless right hand side. Reynoso appeared little confident, and he did not do much to enhance his early moments impression. He pretty much kept himself along the right, and he had minimal contact with the ball.
In the centre, the visitors had one player sitting slightly deeper than the other: One of two Bolivia based men in the Peruvian ranks, Wilmar Valencia, 27 years from Blooming, hence a team mate of Romero and Peña’s, held the rear position. The way the game was going, he was not as much involved as one could have thought, and he struggled to close down the space for his team mate from club level, Romero, at least so far in the game. Valencia was also not much of a player comfortable in possession, and he would gladly let his midfield partner José del Solar accept greater responsibility for such purposes. The latter, only 21 years of age, was well-built, and he had presence in that Peruvian midfield, often going toe to toe with both Melgar and Soria. He seemed to have a fine left foot for distribution, and he would also be instrumental whenever there was a long throw in the attacking end.
Peru’s left-sided midfielder was Fidel Suárez. Just like del Solar and the two defenders Carranza and Requena, he, too, was from Universitario de Deportes. Suárez was someone who had arrived in the squad following the Copa, though he appeared to have taken the place of the now retired Uribe. He would show promising tendencies along the left, and he was also not afraid to come in field in order to see more of the ball, probably being the more comfortable away player in possession inside the opposition’s half. The 26 year old clearly favoured his left foot, and given the chance, he’d swing a free-kick in the attacking third of the pitch into the area.
Up top, Peru’s mentioned couple was Hirano and Navarro. Both had introduced themselves already, despite the fact that their team had been second best hitherto. The latter had even been part of that 1982 World Cup squad, though he had failed to register game time in Spain. He was perhaps not as nimble as Hirano, though he was looking to make himself available, mainly along the right hand channel. The nippy Hirano was a more difficult player to keep in check for the hosts, though through a physical approach, both could be taken out of the game. Still, they would cause some concern for Fontana and Martínez at the heart of the Bolivian defence, mainly through their combined speed and movement.
Hosts on top win a penalty
The hosts are clearly the better side: They dominate possession, and though they have yet to create big opportunities in front of Purizaga, the Peruvian goalkeeper has had to save those efforts from distance. Bolivia look enterprising in midfield, where they work with plenty of enthusiasm and movement, something which had seemed to evade them during the Copa. Now, with Soria and Romero in the side, they easily brush aside the visitors’ efforts at standing tall. The said midfield additions are playing their part, with Soria mopping up what comes through to him in his deeper role, while Romero is constantly seeking to take advantage of those pockets of space between the Peruvian midfield and defence.
With 22 minutes on the clock, the referee awards the hosts a penalty. The so far largely anonymous Takeo, Bolivia’s more attacking midfielder, was played into possession along the right hand side, and when faced with Olivares, he would play a little ball down the right for the advancing Romero, who arrived on the ball to the right outside the Peruvian area. He played a cross first time, and in the centre, the hapless Carranza wrestled Ramallo to the ground. Had the full-back not intervened, the Bolivian striker would’ve been odds on to head his side into the lead, so it could be argued that Carranza had done his team a favour. Especially as it turned out, after nearly three minutes of protesting and Peruvian antics, that Purizaga would save left-back Pérez’ powerful kick. The ‘keeper even got up quickly to save the rebound from point-blank range, somehow actually managing to hold on to Pérez’ right-footed effort. Purizaga subsequently attempted to release the ball quickly, looking to throw it out towards the right hand side, though Bolivia striker Peña reaches his arms out to prevent the ball from leaving the area, and thus offering the referee a chance to add the forward’s name into his little black book. It’s the game’s second yellow card.
With more than half an hour on the clock, there’s very little to suggest from this distinctly average Peru side that they’re about to take the game to their hosts. Of course, they’re in demanding surroundings; that must not be forgotten. The Hernando Silas is unforgiving to any visitor who is not adjusted to the altitude. Signs are that some Peruvian players are struggling. However, there are also exceptions, even if the visitors fail to make much of an impact collectively. They spend the majority of the first period inside their own half, doing their best in closing the opposition down. When they gain possession, though, there’s few ideas where to go next. This Peru side could have done well with a player like, say, Romero in their ranks. Del Solar, despite the fact that he’s the more creative of their two in the centre, doesn’t boast the ability in possession which the home Spielführer has.
Peru eye an opportunity
The game has gone scrappy, and there’s little happening in terms of excitement following Pérez’ penalty miss. In fact, it could have been a goal on the break for the visitors, who twice profit from poor individual actions by Bolivian defenders, Martínez and Fontana respectively. Hirano makes it all the way to just outside the area after accepting that latest failure to hold on to the ball by the 38 year old libero, and he sets up del Solar for a shot from the edge of the area. The Peruvian number 8 is unable to keep it down, though, when he really should at least have tested Galarza.
…and they even score!
A few minutes later, the visitors go one better as they move in front courtesy of a delightful left-footed finish from ten yards by del Solar. A clumsy Martínez challenge on Navarro just outside the right corner of the penalty area rewarded the visitors with a free-kick in a fine position, and from Suárez’ ball towards the back post, centre-back Requena headed it back into the centre, where man of the moment, del Solar, took a touch before sending a strong shot beyond the ‘keeper for 0-1. Considering what had happened earlier in the half, it was somewhat against the run of play, although the hosts’ enthusiasm appeared to have vaned now towards the end of the half.
Bolivia win a second penalty
Peru’s mission was now to see the first 45 through without conceding, and against an increasingly frustrated opponent, they ought to have succeeded. However, they would go on and shoot themselves in the foot, failing to clear their lines along the right, with Carranza once again involved, and then allowing Bolivia forward Ramallo, who had been contained so far in the game, to dart into the area from the left. Peru’s captain Olaechea then made a challenge from behind, and it was done in a manner which belied his wealth of experience. Ramallo went to the ground, and for the second time the Colombian referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Like after the previous penalty award, there was plenty of protesting from the visiting players. Admittedly, we do not have sufficient camera evidence to rightfully fund our view that Peru’s left-back Percy Olivares received the first of their two bookings in the ensuing melee, though there can be absolutely no doubt about goalkeeper Purizaga’s yellow card. For the second time since the start of the game, he was up against a free shot from 12 yards, and with Bolivia’s fine midfielder Milton Melgar the executor on this occasion, the ‘keeper is left ruing his choice of taking a small step to his right just as Melgar strikes the ball. The shot goes low into the right hand corner, with Purizaga wrong-footed. 1-1, right on the stroke of half-time. Melgar’s even seen taunting the goalkeeper as he celebrates his goal.
With some additional time having been played, though no more than a minute and a half, referee Pérez Hoyos blows his whistle to point the teams towards the dressing rooms. Peru’s Suárez had even managed to escape with the ball at his feet after a feeble tackling effort from another Bolivian, this time Borja, and advanced to around 20 yards out, though he was off balance as he struck, failing to get any power behind his shot. With an incident-packed end to the half, the teams were locked at one apiece ahead of the second period.
Bolivia had been the better side for 30-35 minutes of a first half which had perhaps not been high in quality, but which certainly had had its moments of excitement nevertheless. They had dominated Peru’s midfield, and for as long as he had had his stamina intact, Romero had played an integral part in determining the direction of proceedings. Melgar had shown in patches how he could contribute as the midfield’s second in command, while Soria had been fairly impressive in shoring up the rear of the midfield.
The one midfielder which had failed to catch the eye during the first 45 minutes, was Francisco Takeo. Originally working as the most advanced among the quartet, he had often orientated himself towards the right hand side, and whilst he’d often disappeared from the action, he had at least played a role in getting the penalty which brought about the equalizer, as he’d fed Romero prior to the cross. Still, it made plenty of sense that Habegger had chosen to leave Takeo behind for the start of the second period. A teenager had come on in his place: Erwin Sánchez. Capable of working along both midfield flanks, the 19 year old prospect of Bolívar had pace and flair as his greatest asset. He had even been one of very few Bolivians to leave Copa América with a growing reputation.
The hosts proceeded to kick the game back into life through forward Ramallo and newcomer Sánchez.
While there had been stages during the first half which had not always been red hot, apart from that juicy finish, of course, you just can’t take your eyes off the opening ten minutes or so of the final half.
Hosts immediately regain the initiative
Habegger had looked to know what he was doing in bringing Sánchez on, as the second half replacement for Takeo was into the action right away. He looked to line up more or less as a wide right midfielder, clearly more orientated towards a wing role than his predecessor had been, and it didn’t take long for him to display his pace and drive on the ball, nor did it take long for him to feel the force of Peruvian tackles: Twice in the first two minutes did Sánchez go to ground, after challenges from del Solar and Requena respectively. The 19 year old wide man looked like someone whom the home side wanted to involve as much as possible, and he would now form a very potent right hand side with Borja and also Melgar.
Romero had probably been the more expressive player during the first 45 minutes, although he looked to have tired towards the end, and though early play was revolved around the substitute and others along the right hand side, it was not as if the number 10 wanted to remain anonymous. He was very keen to promote himself as an option for his team mates, and once again he was looking to exploit those same pockets of space towards left-sided channels as we had seen during the first period. Three minutes in, he drew a parry from Purizaga after a 30 yard free-kick where he had almost stood still before shooting.
The Peruvian defence does not always excel, and eight minutes into the second half they’re breached again, and this time with severe consequences: Bolivia take the lead. Once again the visitors had failed to maintain possession inside the home side’s half, and when Peña had picked Romero in space inside the Peruvian half, the playmaker accelerated ball at feet, riding del Solar’s attempted tackle, before he released the ball as Requena was about to make a challenge. He found Ramallo completely unmarked inside the penalty area ‘D’, and the striker took a touch, then fooled Olaechea with another, before striking a sweet left-footed shot just inside the left hand post, beyond Purizaga’s dive. Having won the penalty for the equalizer, Ramallo, who had otherwise not played a starring role in the game, had now notched his team’s all-important second goal.
Such home control
It will take the visitors a quarter of an hour to register a second half effort on target. Until then, it is all about Bolivia, and in particular about their right hand side. At the rate which substitute Sánchez is going, one can only wonder why he hadn’t started the game. However, few would complain if his contributions could guide the green and white to a much-needed two points. So far they were a goal up, and Bolivia were certainly not sitting back in order to defend what they’d got.
While the hosts were an efficient outfit in these first 15 minutes of the second half, Peru were at the other end of the scale: disappointing. While their left hand side had not been their weakest link during the first half, full-back Olivares and wide midfielder Suárez would now need to channel their energy into defensive action, as Bolivia’s right hand side appeared so potent. With Carranza and Reynoso incapable of providing much of a threat along the visitors’ right, they only really had direct balls for the two forwards left in their locker. Navarro had been well marshalled by Martínez, while the more mobile Hirano had so far not enjoyed much luck on the somewhat bumpy pitch.
Goalkeeper Purizaga had probably been his team’s best performer hitherto, and he was twice more called into action on 56 and 58 minutes, when he needed to deal with shots from outside of the area from Sánchez and Pérez respectively. While neither effort had been particularly threatening, both had been aimed within the goal frame. Purizaga remained alert.
Game evening out somewhat
Peru’s first second half shot on target had come on the hour from Navarro, who had picked up a ball outside the area and shot low towards the near post. However, Galarza had come off his line by a considerable distance to narrow the angle, and the ageing ‘keeper had showed his flexibility in diving quickly to hold on to the rasping effort. Was the shot a sign of better things to come from the Peruvians, though?
Up front, the visitors were struggling to make an impact, even if Navarro was showing signs of at least moving better. In being less static, he was a bigger challenge for rugged centre-back Martínez, and it was fair to say that it was Navarro who had come to their best opportunities. Hirano had little to offer in direct battle with any opponent, and had also not been able to make much use of perhaps his greatest forte so far: his speed.
It was only really when Bolivia were taking collective breathers that the visitors were able to string a few passes together within their team. Still, 2-1 was hardly a solid lead, so the hosts could not afford to slip up in their press work. Any leniency in their mindset, and the visitors would peg them back. The crowd were doing their best to support their heros, and the noise levels were quite impressive. The term ‘partizan’ could well be used, too, as the Bolivian crowd did their best to intimidate any opponent who went down in need of touchline support, or who would come to take a corner or a throw-in: They would be pelted by fruits! Olivares had been down in need of treatment earlier, and the Peruvian medical team had needed to plead to the crowd in an attempt at making them stop hurling these objects.
Around the midway point in the second half, there’s a couple of substitutions in quick succession, one for either team. We had seen Peru’s wide midfielder Jesús Torrealba, a 27 year old of Universitario de Deportes, warm up during the first half, though it had been difficult to spot any injury of sorts to any player, so it made more sense when he was brought on now in replacement of the anonymous Reynoso. Only a minute and a half later, it was Bolivia’s turn, and they decided to throw wide player Rómer Roca on for Álvaro Peña, who had seemed to be worse for wear in the last few minutes. It was probably due to a knock, as he had been getting some medical attention on the touchline earlier. Roca was a 23 year old from Oriente Petrolero, a club from the city of Santa Cruz, the most populous in Bolivia.
Shortly after, there’s yet another substitution, the fourth and final of the game, as Pepe opts to withdraw striker Navarro for Eduardo Rey Muñoz. To the neutral observer, it may seem a bit of an odd choice, as Navarro had clearly been the more direct of their two strikers, but it could well be that he had run himself into the ground and had little more to offer. Rey Muñoz was a player renowned for his pace, though it remained to be seen whether he would get the chance to utilize his main asset against a Bolivian defence which surely will sit somewhat deeper in the final quarter of an hour.
The changes in personnel have also brought about some positional switches. In the Bolivian side, substitute Roca came on in a right-sided defensive capacity, pushing captain Borja one step ahead from his original right-back position to where the player who had been brought on at half-time, Sánchez, had featured so prominently. With Borja now working in his position, Sánchez would need to switch across to the left, where he would now look to team up with Romero. On paper at least, it did not seem a bad match. Peña, who had gone off, had seemed to play towards the left hand side since the break, with the Bolivian formation assuming 4-5-1 proportions. Ramallo would continue on his own up top.
Among the visiting ranks, substitute Torrealba had clearly come on to feature in the centre of midfield, and with Reynoso coming off, the right-sided job now went to Valencia, who had been operating as the more defensive among the two in the centre until that point. Torrealba, like del Solar, was someone seemingly quite comfortable in possession, and he was looking to get the ball played into his feet. Suárez continued along the left, more as an inverted option rather than someone who would take his full-back on and get to the byline.
While the game had not been particularly nasty, even if it had had its incidents, the referee would eventually dish out a total of six yellow cards. The two latest players to have their names taken were Bolivia ‘keeper Galarza, who had clearly said something to upset the Colombian official as the ball went out of play for a goal kick. A few minutes later, Peru’s centre-back Requena had clattered into Romero some 30 yards from the goalline, and while it was evidently a free-kick, a booking seemed a harsh decision. Sánchez had been fouled several times, even recently by Valencia, with neither challenge on him warranting a card.
Through to full time
There is to be no final push from the visitors. The referee signals the end to proceedings with some additional time having been played, and the hosts had seen the game out in a controlled manner. What appeared to be a combination of a lack of quality and playing in the altitude, had prevented Peru from lending a good impression in this their opening qualifier. As for the Bolivians, they had looked by far the better side, as they had individuals capable of dictating the pace. They collectively saw to that the visiting defence was the busier, and the two points were ultimately well deserved.
In a first half where the hosts were awarded two penalties, it had been the visitors who had gone in front late on, when midfielder del Solar capitalized from a cushioned header by centre-back Requena, a favoured set-piece move by the visitors. Still, the hosts had looked the better team, testing Purizaga from distance several times, in addition to that penalty miss by left-back Pérez. When they were awarded a second spot kick on the stroke of half-time, Melgar converted with ease. They introduced the highly active Sánchez at half-time, and he played a starring second half role from his right-sided midfield position, running at the Peruvian defence with pace and directness. Striker Ramallo had scored what turned out to be the winner eight minutes into the half, and no one could argue with the hosts deserving their triumph.
1 Galarza 6.8
not an awful lot to do, and the goal apart, he rarely faced efforts on goal. An exception was when he came out on six yards to save low down from Navarro. Difficult to judge. Saw a second half booking for having said something to the ref
3 Fontana 6.9
with little pace to boast about, his reading of the game usually saw him safe, and he wisely had a conservative approach right through the game
5 Pérez 7.1
a big attacking presence during the first half, and fired a couple of shots from distance. Missed the first penalty. Defensively not always challenged, but out of position when Navarro had a first half shot
6 Soria 7.2
fair to say he patrolled the rear of the Bolivian midfield with some authority, and he would even not look out of place when electing to come forward, where he combined well, particularly with Romero
7 Melgar 7.4
a major midfield presence, where he saw plenty of possession, and in orientating towards the right hand side, he would often conjure up trouble as far as the visitors were concerned in his collaboration with Borja and later also Sánchez. Coolly tucked away his pen
8 Borja 7.3
an enigma along that right hand side, where he spent almost just as much time inside Peru’s half as their own. Combined to sound effect with Melgar and Sánchez, the latter after the break
10 Romero 7.6
the big playmaker from his advanced central left role. Always demands the ball, and his team mates supply him. Fine thrust in possession, plenty of energy as long as his engine carries him, and produces cross for first pen, as well as sets Ramallo up for 2-1
14 Martínez 6.9
a resolute centre-back performance, though would struggle when challenged for pace, even if it rarely happened. Fine tussle with Navarro
17 Takeo 6.4
has that low centre of gravity, but carries little effect during the half which he plays, unless when he feeds Romero who in turn produces cross for first penalty
(16 Sánchez 7.5
a whirlwind performance! So alive, and typically in full vigour along the right hand side, where he caused no end of trouble for the Peruvians. Raw enthusiasm, pace and skill saw him play a starring second half role)
18 Ramallo 7.1
provokes the second penalty, and then turns Olaechea with ease before slotting home coolly for his winning goal. Plays right through the centre with decent second half effect, though had had a largely anonymous first half
19 Peña 6.7
seemed to do plenty of wandering during the first half, while he was of little goal threat. Allocated his spot towards the attacking left from the start in the second half, and eventually off with a knock
(11 Roca –
slots in as right-back, and helps pushing on from his side, playing behind Borja and Melgar. Rarely troubled defensively, with Suárez usually turning inside)
1 Purizaga 7.2
appears confident in claiming three early low shots on target, and does very well for saving first pen and rebound. Nothing wrong with his confidence. Fine performance
3 Reynoso 6.0
remains on the periphery for as long as he’s on the pitch; nearly invisible along the right. Isn’t helped by having a less enthusiastic performer behind him
(17 Torrealba –
enters as a centre midfielder, and displays some nice touches and fine distribution, even if he is not particularly daring)
5 Requena 6.9
aerially strong, and thus he was usually thrust into the opposition’s area when they had an attacking set-piece. Assisted for the goal. Relatively sound defensively, too
6 Carranza 5.7
late challenges, early yellow card, at fault for the opening penalty and partly for the second one, poor distribution, and relatively helpless on the few occasions when he ventures into the opposition’s half. A game to forget
8 del Solar 6.9
quite comfortable on the ball, and could use both feet, though he failed to convert when presented with a pass from Hirano in a first half break. Would make up for it before the half was over. Could even tackle, but part of a midfield which could not resist the quality of the hosts’
9 Navarro 6.8
worked predominantly through the centre, where he would at times struggle in battle with Martínez, but also arrived at a couple of efforts, where perhaps his in the first half should’ve yielded a goal
(20 Rey Muñoz –
has some pace to burn, but against a somewhat deeper Bolivia, he’s not given much chance to put this into practice. Ultimately offers little)
11 Hirano 6.7
some mazy runs, not always effective, but produced the big shooting chance for del Solar first half. Struggled in combat, and would often pull into wide positions to escape centre-back attention
13 Valencia 6.7
did his best to steady the Peruvian midfield, though would often find himself outnumbered and overrun. Difficult task. Moved to the right after the introduction of Torrealba
14 Olivares 7.0
in the thick of the action in both halves of the pitch, and contributed well in both directions. Their left hand side was much better than their right
15 Suárez 6.9
kept width along the left, and would draw in field and distribute with his decent left foot. Vital at attacking set-pieces, such as when they scored
16 Olaechea 6.8
major influence through his wealth of experience, but disappointingly sells himself short for the winning goal. Part of a sound central defence, which generally does alright in handling the threat from the Bolivian strikers