Brave resistance and a teenage matchwinner reward Bolivia in eventful tie
Considering the start which Bolivia had made to their World Cup qualification campaign, this their first away fixture was all of a sudden hugely vital to their chances of achieving unexpected participation at Italia ’90. Peru, meanwhile, had suffered two straight defeats, and were in practice out of the reckoning already. However, they were unlikely to surrender easily, especially in front of their own fans.
Peru’s other home qualification fixture had ended in a 2-0 loss to Uruguay. They for sure did not have their greatest generation, and the country was still mourning the deaths of some of their most up and coming players for years, still not two years on from the horrific aircrash which wiped out almost the entire Alianza Lima team in December ’87. They had been said to be an extremely talented group.
Bolivia had gained both their wins so far at home in the extreme La Paz altitude. Now it was time to show their critics that they could do it even on the road, with this Lima stadium situated no more than 450 or so feet above sea level. They had showed some enterprising football and highly interesting tactics, stifling a very sound Uruguay side with a 3-6-1 formation last time out.
The table read as follows:
Peru team news
In a match which appeared to have limited significance to the hosts, Brazilian manager José Macia, nicknamed Pepe, had made a few changes to the squad since their previous outing, the 2-0 home defeat against Uruguay a fortnight earlier. Four players had departed since then: Defender Pedro Sanjínez, midfielders Wilmer Valencia and Julio César Uribe, who had incidentally captained the side then, as well as striker Franco Navarro.
Peru had not done badly altogether against the Uruguayans, or even during the 2-1 opening defeat in La Paz, but they had seemed a bit punchless up front, and perhaps at times a little hesitant in their own box. Shortcomings at both ends would come back and bite you in the tail at this level. Perhaps had Pepe attempted to address this through his team selection on this occasion.
They had been through a generational change, with most of their previous ‘big hitters’, remnants from the ’78 and ’82 teams, no longer to be seen. Granted, both the previously mentioned Uribe as well as defender Jorge Olaechea, and even frontman Navarro, had all been part of the squad which had travelled to Spain early in the decade. None of them remained on this occasion.
Peru’s squad was largely a youthful one, albeit a couple of older and more experienced pros had been drafted in for this tie. Two of those coming into the squad were 30 year old midfielder Luis Reyna of Lima club Universitario, making him one of seven hailing from there, and 32 year old forward Eduardo Rey Muñoz. Reyna had indeed travelled as a squad member to the 1982 World Cup, but like Navarro, not featured even once in the matchday squad of 16 then. He had not taken part in the recently held Copa América, nor in either of their previous two World Cup qualifiers. Rey Muñoz had come on as a substitute during their defeat in Bolivia on the opening day of qualification.
The final pair to have been drafted in for the occasion were teenage midfielder Alfonso Yáñez and bustling striker Andrés Gonzáles, just 21 years of age. Both belonged to Universitario, something which meant that all four players who had arrived since last time around hailed from the team which would ultimately finish the 1989/90 season third according to the complex domestic league structure. Neither Yáñez nor Gonzáles had previously featured in either qualification squad, nor in the final squad of 20 players for the Copa América.
Manager Pepe had come under a lot of criticism, and he would need a good performance and a matching result today in order to escape further verbal maltreatment from the press.
Bolivia team news
Two wins from their two home matches had set Bolivia in good stead for their two away ties. In fact, they were even eyeing possible qualification success, and since they on this occasion were up against the team which were propping up the group table, they must have rated as sound their chances of having a maximum total of points from their first three qualifiers, heading into the journey to Uruguay to play the group favourites on foreign soil.
Manager Jorge Habegger seemed a cunning tactician, and the way he had assembled his team to defeat the Uruguayans, albeit in the La Paz altitude last time out, had sure been an innovative one. Their formation had been something akin to 3-6-1, with two players along the right hand side in captain Carlos Borja and the forward-thinking Álvaro Peña causing plenty of damage.
Whilst there had just been a solitary player change from their first to their second qualification matchday squad, there had been a further three this time around. Crucially, Borja was absent (although he can be seen spurring the team on from the substitutes’ bench late in the game). We can only suggest through injury, as he clearly was an integral part of Habegger’s plan. Another big player missing was Peña, who had provoked Domínguez into scoring the own goal for 1-0, and indeed scored the second in that defeat of the Uruguayans himself. It had been a ‘Man of the Match’ performance from the attacking midfielder/forward. He was out suspended following two yellow cards hitherto in the qualification.
The three players coming into the squad of 16 for this fixture had previously not featured during the ongoing qualification. They were youthful midfielder Luis Cristaldo of Oriente Petrolero, seasoned defender Ramiro Vargas of Litoral, as well as midfielder Tito Montaño of La Paz club The Strongest. Next after Bolívar’s six squad representatives, The Strongest were second with four.
It would be interesting to see how Bolivia would fare in more conventional circumstances, not drawing advantage from playing in high altitude. They had failed to even register a goal during their four matches long Copa América campaign, even if they had gained a total of two points following goalless draws against both Ecuador and Argentina. A win here would take them up to six points, something which would firmly put them in the driver’s seat ahead of their trip to Montevideo to play Uruguay. Should they win here in Lima, a draw next week would suffice for World Cup qualification. It must have been an almost surreal feeling.
The leading official for this fixture was 42 year old Paraguayan Carlos Maciel. He had refereed at continental level since 1979, when he had participated in his first Copa Libertadores out of 12 until his first assignment at international level. He had three times been the man in black for semi-finals in the principal South American club competition, and he got to officiate twice during the recently held Copa América in Brazil. His two tasks then had been first round group stage ties between Ecuador/Uruguay and Chile/Ecuador respectively. This tie in Lima was señor Maciel’s first ever World Cup qualifier.
This was the 24th meeting between the two countries throughout history. 15-3-5 read the stats in Peru’s favour prior to kick-off. Bolivia had only once triumphed on Peruvian soil: a 1-0 win in the 1953 Copa América tournament. They had met in World Cup qualification both ahead of the 1970 tournament in Mexico and the 1978 games in Argentina. There had been a win each in 1969, while they had clashed on neutral ground in Colombia for the final round in 1977, when Peru’s 5-0 thrashing had seen them qualify for the following year’s competition.
Peru’s national stadium saw its second fixture of the current qualification. Situated right in the heart of the country’s capital, the José Díaz stadium, or simply ‘Estadio Nacional’, had been opened in 1927. However, it had been significantly restructured, and only since 1952 had it had its present shape and design. While the attendance record hailed from a 1959 friendly against England, with just over 50 000 present, it was believed that she could currently accommodate approximately 45 000 spectators.
|22 Jesús Purizaga||29||Sporting Cristal|
|3 Juan Reynoso||66′||19||Alianza Lima|
|4 Jorge Arteaga||22||Sporting Cristal|
|7 Francesco Manassero||sub h-t||23||Sporting Cristal|
|8 José del Solar||21||Universitario de Deportes|
|9 Andrés Gonzáles||21||Universitario de Deportes|
|11 Jorge Hirano||29||Bolívar|
|14 Percy Olivares||73′||21||Sporting Cristal|
|15 Pedro Requena||28||Universitario de Deportes|
|17 Luis Reyna (c)||sub h-t||30||Universitario de Deportes|
|20 Eduardo Rey Muñoz||32||Universitario de Deportes|
|x Gustavo Gonzáles||25||Sporting Cristal|
|x José Carranza||25||Universitario de Deportes|
|23 Alfonso Yáñez||on h-t||19||Universitario de Deportes|
|24 Carlos Torres||on h-t||23||Internazionale San Borja|
|x Martín Dall’Orso||23||Sporting Cristal|
|20 Carlos Trucco||32||Bolívar|
|3 Ricardo Fontana||38||The Strongest|
|4 Marcos Ferrufino||26||Bolívar|
|6 Vladimir Soria||45′||25||Bolívar|
|7 Milton Melgar (c)||29||Bolívar|
|10 Erwin Romero||sub 60′||32||Blooming|
|13 Luis Cristaldo||20||Oriente Petrolero|
|14 Eligio Martínez||49′||34||The Strongest|
|15 Ramiro Vargas||32||Litoral|
|18 William Ramallo||26||Destroyers|
|23 Tito Montaño||73′||25||The Strongest|
|x Luis Galarza||38||Bolívar|
|x Roberto Pérez||29||Blooming|
|x Eduardo Villegas||25||The Strongest|
|16 Erwin Sánchez||on 60′, 70′||19||Bolívar|
|x Marco Etcheverry||18||Destroyers|
There was a disappointing turn-out from the locals for this clash, albeit it could be understood given how Peru had performed in their first two qualifiers. We have few images from the pre-match rituals other than the two goalkeepers being warmed up and prepped for the action, and we soon arrive at the start, with hosts Peru performing the kick-off.
Whilst playing some neat football at times against a calculating Uruguay side in their most recent qualifier, the Peruvians had been too lightweight up front to prove much of a goal threat. However, with both teams out on the pitch, it was clear that they had made changes to their side, which had obviously been anticipated given how there were changes to their squad on this occasion. Notably, the sizeable Andrés Gonzáles had been added to the forward line, so perhaps could he offer som physicality in challenges with the opposition’s rear lines?
Against the Uruguayans, when Peru had kicked the second half into life, they had lined up with aerially strong centre-back Pedro Requena to the right of kick-off pair Uribe and Navarro, suggesting that they would play the ball back for someone to hit it long towards Requena. Same thing happened again, only Hirano and Manassero set the ball rolling this time, though just like two weeks earlier, the specific starting tactic had been a muted success, with José del Solar’s attempt at aiming a high ball forward failing due to an uneven playing surface. Even Gonzáles and Eduardo Rey Muñoz had lined up just to the right of the centre-circle, looking to sprint ahead and challenge for any long ball which would be played forward.
Peru’s particular opening move didn’t come off for the second time in a row, with the ball which was supposed to be flighted from the back failing as del Solar miskicked when it had struck a lump of grass. Peru’s solitary hope of clinging on to a vague belief that qualification remained possible, was a comprehensive victory here. While it was all ifs and buts, they would certainly try. The alterations in the team sheet was one indication of their intent. In a youthful side, two players of experience had come in, and one had even been given the captain’s armband: 30 year old Luis Reyna was one of five Universitario starters, and in his first appearance of the current qualification, the midfield man turned out to be their third captain of the campaign, and indeed in the process also the third captain who had been part of their last World Cup squad. This was remarkable.
Bolivia could gain control of the group through a third victory from three, and heap plenty of pressure upon the fancied Uruguayans in the process. Granted, they had the crunch journey to Montevideo to come, and with their two remaining matches both at home, Uruguay would still be regarded as favourites. However, should Bolivia manage to secure another win here in Lima, ‘la Celeste’ could not allow themselves any slip-ups.
The opening sequences are unremarkable, with the visitors giving a cautious early interpretation, and the hosts attempting to shift the ball towards the flanks. They have begun the game in a positive manner, and their emphasis is surely on attack. Little else matters. If they go down, they wish to do so fighting. There were four new entries in the starting eleven since the 2-0 loss against Uruguay two weeks ago, and at least three of them had attacking credentials.
Pragmatic start from Bolivia
With a quarter of an hour gone, there is still no clear pattern to the game apart from the fact that the visitors have that measured approach in which they wish to portray a solid defensive line. They are without both their wide players from the opening two qualifiers, captain Carlos Borja to the right and Roberto Pérez, the man with the wicked left foot, opposite. They have therefore reshaped and altered their formation yet again, with tinkerman Habegger even deploying two players along their left hand side to compensate for the absence of Pérez, who, however, is a feature on the substitutes’ bench.
Peru, much as opposed to their counterparts, are in such an attacking line-up that their formation even resembles a 4-2-4. They are very eager to make amends for their two losses thus far, although early doors they are unable to threaten the Bolivian goal, where there’s been a change of ‘keepers, with 38 year old Luis Galarza, on the bench, having been replaced by his understudy from the opening two qualifiers: Carlos Trucco. One may wonder what Habegger’s idea of replacing two players who had been vital features in their two winning elevens hitherto was about.
A run through the hosts’ select
Peru have shown intent down their left hand side even in their two earlier matches, with young left-back Percy Olivares a willing customer in coming forward. He might seem untidy at times, but he has plenty of endeavour in his play, and he possesses a fine left foot for crossing balls into the centre, even if his preference still appears to be possession and interplay rather than to opt for aerial balls. To the right, the other full-back, Jorge Arteaga, is not as keen in his forward advances, but there are options ahead of him in both Francisco Manassero and certainly Eduardo Rey Muñoz, who is starting for the first time in this qualification.
At the base of their team, the Peruvians once again have the cultured 21 year old José del Solar in a libero position. He had got their goal in the loss last time when these two teams had met, then from a central midfield position, though he had performed well as their defence’s spare man against Uruguay. Del Solar, while not the paciest of players, possessed a tasty left foot, and he was calm when working the ball out from defence. His size also made him a relatively comfortable player when challenging in the air, something which could not always be said about his team mates, with Pedro Requena, his partner in central defence a notable exception.
In addition to del Solar’s competence on the ball, Peru now had Reyna working from their midfield core, where he would often crave the ball and look to orchestrate play. Reyna was another who did not seem to be blessed with a whole lot of tempo, but he proved to be streetwise, and could play a pass. Aptly assisting him in a similarly defensive midfield capacity was the 19 year young feet of Juan Reynoso, whose presence in a more central position seemed to greater benefit both player and team. He had looked out of sorts in that right-sided midfield spot in La Paz. Reynoso provided the legs in midfield, and coupled they allowed Manassero to be the probing, attacking alibi from the centre of the pitch. The 25 year old of Sporting Cristal had had a disappointing 18 minutes cameo against Uruguay, but he was given a starting role to prove himself on this occasion. So far, Manassero had been seen with a slight right-sided bias.
While they had been unable to produce anything in terms of a goal threat during the first 15 minutes, the hosts boasted a three-pronged forward line. Due to the fact that they had often seemed lightweight up front, they had included a powerfully built striker in Andrés Gonzáles on this occasion. While he did not seem as mobile and agile as Franco Navarro before him, he looked to be able to hold his own in battle, and he was the one they were looking to as far as holding the ball up and bring the two other forwards, the nippy Jorge Hirano and wide right man Rey Muñoz, was concerned. Hirano, who both on this occasion and in their two previous qualifiers had often enjoyed coming somewhat deep to set off on mazy little runs on the ball, had the left hand side as his starting position, though with Olivares providing assistance behind him, he was definitely not tied to a flank role.
Bolivia had looked focused on preventing the Peruvians so far, but approaching 20 minutes, they were finally beginning to show some attacking intent of their own. Until then, a tame Ramallo shot from 23-24 yards after he had not trusted his own pace enough to try and outrun del Solar had been their sole attempt, but twice inside 30 seconds do they muster diagonal finishes from the left inside the area. The first had come from striker Ramallo after Romero’s clever pass, saved low down by Purizaga, and then an even more delightful piece of ingenuity by Melgar had seen Cristaldo arrive with a similar chance, only to wrongfully be flagged for offside against. Melgar had threaded a pass through with the outside of his right foot, perfectly weighted for the wide left midfield player. Cristaldo’s shot had nevertheless gone wide of the upright.
After differing formations in their first two qualifiers, Bolivia’s Argentinian supremo Jorge Habegger had altered their numbers combination once again. They were clearly operating with three players at the heart of their defence, which they had done in that fine home win against Uruguay, too, though on this occasions their two wide defenders were clearly sitting deeper, thus defining their defensive unit a five man pack. The four men in midfield had the energetic and tenacious Vladimir Soria at the base, while the brilliantly skilled Erwin Romero was working in a relatively free role behind the solitary forward.
While Galarza had not at all looked out of place so far, he had been replaced by Trucco on this occasion, for whatever reason. Aged 32, the replacement custodian was no fledgling himself, even if Galarza was six years his senior. He had so far dealt with a few backpasses, and made sure to see del Solar’s tenth minute free-kick from distance which had deflected off the wall drift just over the bar.
Libero was once again Ricardo Fontana, a man as clever as his 38 years of age would indicate. He knew of his limitations, and he performed accordingly. Fontana could hardly draw on excessive pace, but he sat deep and would collect whatever pieces there were to collect if Peru made it past his fellow central defenders Marcos Ferrufino and Eligio Martínez. In particular the latter had looked strong so far in the qualification, with his physicality being just one of several attributes from which he would draw advantage. Martínez was comfortable in possession, and although he had been sitting back so far in this tie, him making advance into the opposition’s half was not an unusual sight. Ferrufino, on the other hand, was more your ‘clear it first time’ type of defender. Or at least that was his job in this set-up. He, too, carried some physicality, though not to the extent of Martínez.
While Borja was a big miss along the right hand side, Tito Montaño tried his best to fill the shoes of the captain from their opening two qualifiers. He seemed nervous in the early stages, though, inexplicably hitting a pass straight to Olivares to highlight this impression. Montaño was far from having Borja’s quality in possession, and he looked unwilling even to provide an outlet when the opportunity to break was there. With no fixed right-sided midfielder, Montaño would’ve been expected to contribute at least somewhat along the flank, but so far he was mainly staying put inside the Bolivian half of the pitch. To the left in defence, replacing Pérez, was Ramiro Vargas, a 32 year old whose main priority in the preliminary stages was also a defensive one. He, too, seemed a tad limited in possession, and would typically look for a team mate nearby whenever he won the ball. Vargas was quite the opposite kind of player to Pérez whom he filled in for.
Soria had not been hugely visible initially, but he would grow in stature as the game progressed. He worked tirelessly at the rear of the Bolivian midfield, although he was not short in confidence, and thus he would even be seen joining in the action inside of Peru’s half. He liked a challenge, did Soria, and on one notable occasion had he won the ball from Hirano through a strong challenge and immediately looked to start a counter-attack. In general, this seemed to be the visitors’ idea to threaten the hosts, perhaps inspired by what Uruguay had shown in the only other Lima fixture during this qualification.
Milton Melgar had taken over the captain’s armband in Borja’s absence, and the inside midfielder was clearly one of the team’s more influental players. He was someone equipped with fine close control, and in style of play, he was not a million miles away from team mate Romero, even if he perhaps didn’t have the same ability in riding a challenge. Melgar’s position was just to the right of centre, often looking to exploit the channels when a counter was on. He thrived in possession, had excellent vision, as displayed through that pass for Cristaldo, but was also capable of putting a shift in for the sake of the collective. No doubt was he one of the first names jotted down on Habegger’s team sheets.
Working in an advanced capacity, pretty much like he had done against the Uruguayans, was the team’s most technically gifted performer in the 32 year old Romero. He had a deceptively lazy look about him, but once in possession, he was usually likely to set his sight on the penalty area, often gaining several yards with the ball at his feet in order to arrive there or thereabouts. Like Melgar, he knew how to pick a pass, and he had the feet to go with his vision. Romero was often working in the left hand channel, and would typically look for the lone striker.
Oriente Petrolero’s Luis Cristaldo had not featured in either of Bolivia’s two previous matchday squads, but not only was he brought into the 16 for this occasion: He was even a starter. Looking somewhat light-framed, he was working to the left in midfield, sitting advanced ahead of left-back Vargas. Clearly a left-footer, Cristaldo would offer dedication and plenty of running along this flank, and even if he was not your outright winger, he had already proved how he could provide a threat, unlucky to have been flagged off following that stunning Melgar pass.
Up top, like in their two earlier qualifiers, Bolivia had William Ramallo. He was another player of fine workrate, and he had proved quite flexible in his interpretation of the lone striker’s role last time around. Again, he was looking to stretch the opposition defenders’ legs, as he would at times pull out into the channels. He didn’t have a whole lot of pace, but he was wise in his movements, and the Peruvian defence certainly needed to be alert to keep him at bay.
Big chance for 1-0
Neither goalkeeper has yet to be truly tested as we approach the halfway stage in the first half, Ramallo’s opportunity aside. It is the home side which has held the upper hand thus far, with Bolivia predominantly sitting deep and hoping to catch Peru on the break. However, there are some promising signs within the home ranks, for whom Hirano is looking lively. Well, the little forward has done so in bits and parts of the other two matches as well, with little eventually coming of it. 22 minutes in, he will get on the end of a hopeful Reyna cross into the centre, and a failed Melgar clearance almost became Bolivia’s undoing, as Hirano was free to have a poke at goal 12 yards out. Somehow, Trucco gets his left leg to the ball, which is diverted away to safety. On another day, it would’ve ended up in the back of the net for the opening goal.
Hosts continue to be in the ascendancy
Bolivia are being put under pressure for spells in the first half, and the changes within their team do not necessarily seem to have improved them. There is, too, of course, the small matter of them playing away rather than at home in La Paz this time around, but they look distinctly less confident than previously in the qualification. Their defence has so far been able to repel most of what’s been thrown at them, but there is no Peña down the right to accelerate and instigate quick transitions. Granted, Melgar and Romero are both class on the ball, but collectively they lack the cohesion to pose a threat.
The Peruvians are playing some of their better football hitherto in the qualification. Olivares keeps being an important means in their attacking probings, as the young left-back comes bombing forward time and again. In the centre of midfield, Reyna is a vital presence, and demands the ball on plentiful occasions. Reynoso alongside him also goes through a whole lot of work for the hosts to gain the upper hand, and he’s often successful in his passing game, even though he’s generally keeping it simple. One player which they have struggled to connect so far, though, is Manassero, who often finds himself in something of a vacum. He’s probably supposed to be the main link between midfield and attack, but the form of Hirano often sees him become surplus to requirement. From the back, del Solar continues to monitor the situation ahead of him, and his composure remains a big asset.
Watching events unfold out on the bumpy pitch, one wouldn’t think that the team in white with the characteristic red diagonal stripe across the shirt had lost twice, and likewise, there was little in terms of urgency from the Bolivians suggesting that a win could provide them with a massive step towards World Cup qualification. Peru look by far the better side, mastering the surface better, passing the ball around well, as they maintain the pace of the game.
The hosts work possession from the centre towards the right and back again, and switch play to the left. Repeatedly. They are comfortable. They are confident. Yet, they have little to show for their dominance so far. Hirano had had a shot wasted from 20 yards, del Solar’s 28 yard free-kick had been hammered straight into the defensive wall, and when the same man attempted to lift a pass towards Rey Muñoz in the area, the bounce of the ball saw to that it was a comfortable task for Trucco to pick it up.
The game has been played out in good spirits, with little in terms of nastiness. Granted, Olivares had been fortunate to escape a booking around the half hour mark when he’d hacked Melgar down from behind after the Bolivia midfielder had provoked through some showboating, but other than that there had been few reasons for the Paraguayan referee to even consider bringing his cards out. However, there is time for a first half booking on 45 minutes, when Soria kicks the ball away after Hirano’s won a somewhat cheap free-kick after a challenge from Melgar 15 yards inside the Bolivian half, with the possibility to lift the ball into the box.
Well into time added on, there’s an unexpected turn of events as the visitors take the lead. Bolivia have been second best for most of the opening half, and certainly in the last 20 minutes. They had probably felt pleased about entering the dressing rooms with the score at nil-nil, until some interpassing between Romero and Melgar took them well inside the hosts’ half of the pitch. A cross from the latter was headed out by Arteaga, but only as far as Soria, who picked it up 30 yards out and advanced a few yards before firing in a right-footed effort which took Purizaga by surprise. The ‘keeper could not get a touch to the ball despite his best effort, and as the ball cannoned back off the upright, it found its way to Montaño, who had cleverly followed up. Before either home defender could react, Bolivia’s right-sided defender had connected with the loose ball, and though it hit him on the shin, it ended up in the back of the net just inside the post for a shock 1-0 lead for the visitors. Cue massive celebration!
The half continued for about a minute and a half even after the goal, and the shell-shocked hosts even conceded a corner two and a half minutes into time added on, only for the referee to bring the half to a close on 47,46. It had obviously been a massive goal for the visitors, and what would the second half have in store after this dramatic end to the first period?
With the second half ready to commence, it is with just the Bolivian kick-off pair on par with the halfway line, as opposed to the start of the game, when no less than five Peruvians had scattered themselves along the same line. It is the two most forward Bolivian players, striker Ramallo and attacking midfielder Romero, who will initiate the game’s second phase.
In waiting for the Paraguayan referee to signal his whistle, we haste to inform you that the home side has made no less than two half-time changes, something which appears quite drastic considering how they had dominated play during the opening 45 minutes. Of course, there’s a chance that both captain Reyna and attacking midfield man Manassero had picked up injuries which prevented them from playing further part. The latter of the two had indeed been down on the floor for a few seconds to collect himself after a challenge, clutching an ankle, though other than that, both had appeared to be fit and dandy.
The two players who had been introduced at the interval were 23 year old Carlos Torres of Internazionale (San Borja), someone originally thought of as a left-sided midfielder or attacker, while Universitario’s promising 19 year old Alfonso Yáñez, considered a midfielder, was the other. With neither of the withdrawn pair seemingly injured, the two half-time substitutions appeared to be a desperate move from a man under serious pressure in his job. Pepe knew there would be big questions asked of him if Peru failed to get anything from this game.
Taking over the captaincy from Reyna was centre-back Requena, an ever-present so far in the qualification. Off we go with the second half.
Early in the final period, trying to establish Peru’s second half formation and player ideas appears instrumental. That double substitution must have left people almost shell-shocked, and one can only assume that Pepe has panicked after conceding so late in the first half. Really, they were all over their visitors for large chunks of the opening 45 minutes, and there seemed to be little reason why they couldn’t copy that, despite the unfortunate late goal from their point of view.
It could indeed be an early second half push in a 3-4-3 formation, as libero del Solar has clearly come higher in the pitch, appearing as a central midfielder in these early stages. In doing so, he works alongside Reynoso, while the other teenager, the newly arrived Yáñez, is found along the right hand side. There is some uncertainty as to who occupies that left-sided midfield position, and while it could be Hirano who has dropped back, he certainly is of such roaming nature that it is difficult to pinpoint his location. The other substitute, Torres, could have slotted into the left-sided forward role, although he can be seen back-checking, even contributing inside his own half, at times suggesting that he’s the left-sided midfielder. He is quite powerful, is Torres, and in a team of relatively few players boasting much in terms of physique, he seems a welcome addition. Yáñez, meanwhile, is at the other end of the body frame scale.
There’s a few misplaced passes, which could partially be blamed on the poor state of the pitch, and while the hosts have the better of possession early doors, there’s not a whole lot of collective attacking. The livewire that is Hirano had chested down a pass and made advance through the centre, until he was forcefully brought to the ground by the strong Martínez, who in turn earnt himself the game’s second booking. The enigmatic Soria had an almost identical move down the other end, only to be stopped in his tracks by stand-in skipper Requena. On both occasions, the outcome of a direct free-kick had been dispatched goalwards, with del Solar’s low shot from 28 yards safely caught by Trucco, and Purizaga easily dealing with Romero’s attempt, which had been flighted just over the top of the defensive wall.
Hosts level up the score
Peru are finally rewarded with a goal as the clock’s just passed the eight minute mark of the second half. They profit from a sloppy Melgar free-kick halfway inside the Bolivian half, and Yáñez, who is momentarily across to the left, picks up the ball rather than its intended target Montaño. He carries the ball for a few yards and then looks up to see Rey Muñoz in full sprint already well inside the opposition’s half. Yáñez executes a 35 yard pass to perfection, and the forward-moving Rey Muñoz plays the ball on first time, something which turns out to be a masterstroke. His pass finds Gonzáles in the area, and again, first time, the big number 9 strikes it low and diagonally, left-footed, past Trucco and into the back of the net for 1-1. It is a terrific team goal, and not least a thoroughly deserved equalizer.
In the wake of the goal, the Peruvians sure do play with a fire in their bellies; they are strong in their belief again. They are not that bad a side, although it can be argued that Bolivia, away from home, are not necessarily top drawer.
While it had looked like del Solar was playing in midfield for a few minutes after the restart, he most certainly had slotted back into the heart of the defence again, while the order of their more forward players did not always appear so straightforward. In what was essentially a 4-3-3 again, Reynoso was the deep midfield player, while Yáñez held the inside right position. It was up for debate, though, as to who was working in the inside left role, with both Torres and Hirano appearing. However, the latter would even seem to swap roles, albeit momentarily, with striker Gonzáles once they had levelled the scores. The goalscorer had been back inside his own half and instigated a counter which ended with left-back Olivares arriving in the left hand corner of the penalty area to shoot first time well over. Altogether, the Peruvians were doing plenty of interchanging of positions, although one could perhaps debate as to whether or not it had been premeditated.
How about Bolivia? Having conceded the equalizer, World Cup qualification once again seemed difficult. They would need both points in Lima in order to stand a chance against Uruguay in the final rankings. However, there was little in their play which suggested that they had what was needed, as they were being pinned back again. Both wide defenders became very deep, and neither Soria, Melgar nor Romero could get a proper grip in midfield, where the Peruvians were now swarming all over them.
This had, in fact, been quite a disappointing performance from the visitors so far, so perhaps had their two sound home displays been made more impressive thanks to the altitude after all? It was time for a change, and though Romero had done little since the break, it was still a surprise to see him come off on the hour, with youngster Erwin Sánchez making his third substitute appearance of the qualification, coming on in his place.
The introduction of Sánchez, who had tormented the Peruvians after his second half arrival in the opposite fixture in La Paz, seemed to spark new life into the visitors. They finally had someone capable of grabbing possession and making use of the ball. In normal circumstances, this was surely not beyond Romero at all, but on this occasion the 32 year old Blooming ace had failed to excel. Sánchez slotted into Romero’s attacking midfield position, in which he originated towards the left, but thanks to his flexibility and not least his pace, he was useful all across the attacking end of the pitch. He was raw, but he had flair about him, and once the ball arrived at his feet, you would almost expect the unexpected.
Little cruelty on display, yet we have further bookings
It is by no stretch of the imagination a nasty game, although there are a few free-kicks dished out, more due to clumsy tackles than anything intentional. Peru remain the more impressive and hungry-looking side even after Sánchez’ arrival, and they maintain possession and shift the ball around well within their team. They are keen to work their left hand side, from which Olivares still joins in attack. He has Torres ahead of him, and together they put pressure on Montaño, who, despite his goal, has not really had a convincing display.
There is a third yellow card of the game for Reynoso on 66 minutes, when the midfielder has held back Ramallo by the arm just inside the Bolivian half of the pitch, and upon the referee’s whistle, he makes sure to applaud the official sarcastically, practically pleading for his booking. Señor Maciel has few hesitations in obliging. Requena, who no longer sports the captain’s armband, which he was seen getting rid of for whatever reason some ten minutes into the second half, should have followed suit when he hacked Ramallo down by the byline, after the visitors’ lone striker had skipped past him and attempted to enter the area from the left.
Astonishingly, the referee’s inconsistency sees him award Sánchez the fourth booking of the match when the visitors’ substitute is about to take the ensuing free-kick following on from that Requena challenge. While it appears to have been given for time-wasting, although the Bolivians would have harboured few such intentions, even at this stage where they were mostly second best in open play, Sánchez had been unable to proceed with a quick free-kick anyway, as Yáñez had positioned himself right in front of the ball to prevent this, and only moved away a matter of seconds prior to the referee’s yellow.
The free-kick was ultimately played off a defender for a left wing corner instead, which Purizaga claimed to thwart the Bolivians’ progress.
Reynoso leaves fine impression
While Bolivia are unable to sustain the upper hand, the hosts continue to play the more expressive form of football. Perhaps had it seemed an odd decision to leave Reyna behind in the dressing-room before the start of the second half, but in giving Reynoso greater responsibility in the centre of the park, Pepe had seemed to know what he was up to. The 19 year young Alianza starlet was not afraid of the added demands on his persona, and he both sought the ball and dealt with it well. He would distribute towards the flanks, which kept being Peru’s main incentive, also due to the fact that Bolivia had crowded the centre.
Even more yellows
On 73 minutes, there’s two more bookings, one for each team, when a situation along Peru’s left hand side originally sees Soria take down Rey Muñoz. It was perhaps nothing particularly ugly, yet Soria was the kind of player who knew of a trick or two, even if he would often do well to conceal his foul intentions. While he walked away, Montaño booted the ball as high and far as he could, so that the hosts would not be given the opportunity to proceed with a quick free-kick. This made Olivares see red (metaphorically speaking), and he gave the Bolivian right-sided defender a gentle push from behind, resulting in a dramatic tumble to the ground from Montaño. The end of the shenanigans saw the referee reward both Olivares and Montaño with each their yellow card. It was all getting a bit silly, but the referee had probably played his part, too, through failing to show necessary consistency in his second half decisions.
Bolivia score again!
As if this match did not have another twist of events: On 77 minutes, Bolivia went in front for the second time. They had been the ones looking to defend their way to a draw, whilst World Cup qualification had hardly seemed to be on their minds. Peru, on the other hand, had kept asking the questions, yet for all their dominance in possession, they had been unable to penetrate the visitors’ defence. When Martínez’ free-kick from the halfway line was headed out by Requena into the feet of Cristaldo, the fledgling wide midfielder poked the ball into Ramallo’s direction, and the striker realized there was a path to the byline, as Arteaga only put in a half-hearted challenge. Upon arriving there, to the left inside the area, the lone striker played a square ball into the six yard area, and with Purizaga unable to get to it, Sánchez was left with the simple task of side-footing home from three yards out.
And those who might have thought that the game had run out of drama – well, they were most certainly wrong. Only two minutes after Sánchez’ goal for a Bolivian 2-1 lead, upon which their players had, understandably, celebrated like mad, a Rey Muñoz corner from the right, delievered high into the centre, went across to the left hand corner of the area, where Ramallo failed to control the ball like he had wanted. His momentum carried him into a clumsy challenge on Hirano, who had picked the ball up just behind him. In what could best be described as a ‘typical striker’s tackle’, the Bolivia number 18, who had just assisted for their latest goal, fouled the Peru livewire to concede a penalty. The referee’s decision was a correct one.
This was Peru’s chance to set the record straight, as a 2-1 deficit was hardly a scoreline which reflected the game picture up until that point. For all their probing, the Peruvians had failed to find a way through Bolivia’s crowded defence, but an opportunity like this was surely too good to be wasted. The responsibility of tucking the kick away went to second half skipper Requena. The strong centre-back had assisted for del Solar’s goal in La Paz, but on this occasion the Peru number 15 could not aid his team’s plight: His shot was hit in what was a fine height for the ‘keeper, and with Trucco going in the right direction, it was a relatively manageable task for him to save Requena’s effort towards the left, and then the ‘keeper even got to his own rebound before the penalty taker. Big miss. Nothing would go right for the Peruvians in this game. Lady luck was on Bolivia’s side. This was another major leap towards World Cup participation. Carlos Trucco was about to become a national hero.
Through to full time
The missed penalty knocks the stuffing out of the home side, and they will arrive at no further opportunities in the final ten minutes of game time. They had done very well for such big chunks of the game, and to leave with nothing to show for must have felt cruel. If this was their real level, perhaps were there brighter things around the corner.
One observation in the wake of Requena’s failed spot-kick, was how the two full-backs had switched sides. It seemed peculiar: Olivares, so strong down that left hand side, especially in an attacking capacity, had moved to the right, with Arteaga, a much more limited player when coming forward, shifting across to the left. They remained in those positions for the remainder of the game, with nothing materializing from the positional interchange.
As for the visitors, they demonstrated their intentions of seeing time out once Trucco had denied Requena from the spot, and twice the tireless Soria went down in challenges which could hardly be described as ‘criminal offences’, looking to perhaps even get Reynoso sent off in the first of those two. Soria acted like he was seriously hurt, though the duel had rarely impacted on him. Still, he had had a fine game, the man at the rear of the Bolivian midfield, breaking up play and even setting out on attack on a couple of occasions through his sheer enthusiasm and desire to win.
Bolivia have a high level of possession towards the end of the game, when the hosts have shown the white flag and surrendered. They are more than content to see time out, rather than try and score a third, even if goal difference could possibly come into the reckoning in the final group standings. There is one final opportunity, though, when Montaño does very well in putting Hirano under pressure high up in the pitch, and the ball then breaks for Ramallo, who immediately sets his sight on goal, arriving inside the area and having a wicked right-footed shot towards the near post from 14 yards, only to see Purizaga get down in time and beat it away for a right wing corner. The lone striker had worked so hard all game, and a late goal to cap his performance had been merited.
A minute and 53 seconds into time added on, the referee finally blows his whistle for full time, and the visiting players are naturally elated. Peru had put up a brave fight, and certainly had nothing to be ashamed about, even if they had suffered their third straight defeat in the qualification.
With the home crowd less pleased about the result, they vent their frustration at the manager, and Pepe needs to be escorted off by riot police putting their shields up to prevent the Brazilian head coach being struck by any object thrown from the stands. It seemed an inappropriate, though not wholly unexpected, thing to do, especially as the performance had been a promising one by the home team.
Visitors Bolivia arrive with a calculated game plan: They sit compact in their 5-4-1, and invite the hosts onto them. Peru, who despite two losses so far, do have a few players capable of shifting the ball around and playing, and they do plenty of probing and accept a lot of possession. They’ve added more physicality up top through Gonzáles, though they find it difficult to break down the visitors’ resistance. In first half injury time, Bolivia, who have not threatened much, score a vital goal as Montaño tucks away the rebound following Soria’s long distance effort off the post.
The second half sees more of the same: Plenty of home possession. The referee plays a certain role, too, in showing some inconsistency in his dealings, and despite the game never being nasty, he’ll dish out a total of six yellow cards. Peru equalize within ten minutes of the restart after a superb goal on the counter, though they are unable to add to their tally, with Bolivia’s rear guard again the highlight.
19 year old substitute Erwin Sánchez turns matchwinner when he taps home from close range following Ramallo’s low cross. Bolivia then see Trucco come to the rescue as he saves Peru centre-back Requena’s penalty a couple of minutes after the latest goal. They hold on to claim an incredibly important win. They ‘just’ need a draw in Montevideo next week now to make their passage through to the World Cup.
22 Purizaga 6.8
could he have positioned himself better for the second goal? Made a cat-like stop to deny Ramallo first half, but did not have a whole lot to do as the Peruvians were piling on the pressure
3 Reynoso 7.0
raised his game when there was added midfield responsibility on his shoulders after Reyna’s departure, and he seemed to thrive in the deeper role, where his distribution came to the fore. Also equipped with a decent engine, something which saw him ‘run all afternoon’. Silly second half booking
4 Arteaga 6.5
the right-back didn’t participate a whole lot in coming forward, and when he did, hardly looked comfortable in possession. Some tussles with Cristaldo, and seemed to position himself well defensively. However, it was after his indecisive header out from Melgar’s cross which Soria would strike the post for the opening goal
7 Manassero 6.3
very rarely put any kind of print on the game, as he too often was found running between. Didn’t seem to find his position. Substituted at half-time
(23 Yáñez 6.8
clearly a talented player, but very lightweight. Brought flexibility to midfield in the second half, as they sought to take the game to the Bolivians. Superb pass to Rey Muñoz which in turn led to the equalizer, and his passing and technique were stand-out features)
8 del Solar 7.0
libero again from the outset, and despite his lack of pace, would thrive from the deep role with his vision and range of passing. Also comfortable on the ball, and would look for a constructive involvement. Pushed into midfield early second half, but dropped back again once they’d found the equalizer
9 Gonzáles 7.1
added some punch to their frontline. Did seem a bit restricted in his movements, but once he’d accumulated pace, he was difficult to stop, which was twice seen along the right handed channel. Took his goal really well first time, and kept the opposition’s defence occupied
11 Hirano 7.1
the energetic forward again put a shift in, and seemed to thrive playing off an old school centre-forward. Should’ve scored in the first half, and caused havoc a couple of times with his quick and direct running. Lack of ruthlessness in decisive moments, though
14 Olivares 7.2
rarely stopped coming down the left hand side, from where he provided an excellent outlet. He generally kept Montaño pinned to his own half, and he played a vital role in their attacking build-ups. Lucky not to have been booked for his tackle on Melgar first half, and then drew a silly yellow later. Swapped places with Arteaga for the final ten minutes
15 Requena 6.8
predominantly kept himself inside the defensive half, and would often come in contact with Ramallo, whom he brought down by the byline second half, fortunate to escape a warning. Second half captain. Disappointing spot-kick when the chance to rescue a point was there
17 Reyna 6.8
saw plenty of first half possession from a somewhat deep midfield position, and distributed well, though he remained one-paced. Off during the interval
(24 Torres 6.8
provided another body towards the left after his arrival in the second half, and even used his physicality to his advantage against Montaño a couple of times. Still, little eventually came of his probing)
20 Rey Muñoz 6.9
stuck to his wide role dutifully, and often tussled with Vargas. Did get a couple of crosses in, and looked good on the few occasions when there was the chance for the hosts to break, thanks to his pace. This brought his assist about. Would drift out of the game at times, and was generally well kept in check
20 Trucco 7.2
could do absolutely nothing to prevent the goal, and made the all-important late penalty save, in addition to saving from Hirano close range. Certainly a steady performance, and looked a bigger presence on this display than Galarza before him
3 Fontana 7.1
another steady performance at the heart of the defence, which he marshalled well from his libero position. It seemed to suit his game that they were sitting deep for most of the game
4 Ferrufino 6.5
another marking assignment, and while he’s loyal to instructions, he would find Gonzáles a handful in challenges, and also at times struggled along the ground when faced with Hirano or Rey Muñoz. Not quite his game
6 Soria 7.1
not hugely visible until the game had truly settled, but would make several interceptions and put in some fine challenges at the back of their midfield, in addition to providing legs during a few counter-attacks. Terrific shot to strike the post for Montaño’s opening goal. Used his guile in the game’s dying stages to see out time
7 Melgar 6.7
carried the captain’s armband on this occasion, and did have his moments in the first half when his ability on the ball saw him combine well with both Romero and Ramallo. Seemed to struggle for possession as the game wore on, and didn’t assert usual influence and composure
10 Romero 6.8
again showed some of his tremendous close control, which saw him skip past challenges, and looked switched on for spells in the first half, when he was the key player inside the opposition’s half. Less visible after the break, and was replaced on the hour
(16 Sánchez 7.1
stepped into Romero’s role, and his sheer enthusiasm and energy took him into some good positions. Played to other strengths than his predecessor, and with Bolivia relying on transitions, he seemed more in sync with proceedings than Romero had done. Side-footed home the all-important winner)
13 Cristaldo 6.7
added width and workrate to the left in midfield, but his frail frame saw him struggle in battle. Had good awareness, and could run himself into some decent positions
14 Martínez 6.9
a big presence as he usually is, and he would often break out from the defensive line to challenge higher in the pitch, and with some success. Less influental in possession, and picked up a silly yellow
15 Vargas 6.8
brought into the side to look after the left-back position, and in an almost entirely defensive display, he came away with some credit, as he rarely allowed Rey Muñoz too much leeway
18 Ramallo 7.4
worked in the lone striker’s role and put in a massive shift: Never stopped running to either provide an option for his midfielders, or to close the opposition’s players down. Assisted for the winning goal, then was rather clumsy when he conceded the penalty, but could’ve added a vital third in injury time
23 Montaño 6.6
showed early signs of nerves in possession, and often came up against the lively Olivares, which did not always favour him. Obviously netted the opening goal, but in all honesty had few noteworthy contributions apart from that