Enner Valencia scored either side of half-time as Ecuador improved their hopes of advancing to the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Honduras on Friday at the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil.
Valencia scored in the 34th and 65th minutes as Ecuador turned around the scoreline following Carlo Costly's 31st-minute opener for Honduras.
Valencia, who also scored in Ecuador's opening loss to Switzerland, has now scored three goals at the World Cup, tied with four others for most in the tournament.
As the Telegraph's Mark Ogden tweeted, Valencia's World Cup goals likely mean he has a bright future ahead:
For Ecuador, it was a first victory away from their capital of Quito in a competitive match since 2009, per Bleacher Report contributor Frank Wagner:
With the win, Ecuador moved into second place in Group E with three points, ahead of Switzerland on goal differential after the Swiss lost 5-2 to France earlier Friday. Reinaldo Rueda's team will finish off group play against France on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro.
Honduras will play Switzerland the same day in Manaus. Only a lopsided victory, coupled with a high-scoring win for France over Ecuador, would be enough to see Honduras advance.
According to Infostrada Sports, Ecuador's comeback win was the eighth of the tournament so far, one short of the all-time record:
The game's first big chance fell to Ecuador in the 19th minute as Valencia beat the offside trap, chesting down a long pass over the top from Frickson Erazo. With only goalkeeper Noel Valladares to beat, Valencia curled his shot high and wide of the far post.
Honduras had their first clear opening eight minutes later as an unmarked Victor Bernardez met Oscar Garcia's corner at the back post. Bernardez had time and space to bring the ball down, but instead he headed off target.
Four minutes later, Honduras went ahead after a defensive error from Ecuador. An unlikely chance developed after Jorge Guagua misplayed a long clearance from Honduras' half, allowing the ball to run into Costly's path. After taking a touch, Costly smacked a low finish past Alexander Dominguez for a 1-0 Honduras lead.
As Infostrada Sports noted, Honduras had been within sight of setting an all-time scoring drought at the World Cup:
Ecuador hit back just three minutes later, Valencia tapping in at the back post after Juan Carlos Paredes' shot from the right was deflected.
Honduras came close to scoring a second goal on two separate occasions in stoppage time. First, Bernardez powered a free-kick on target from long distance, only for Dominguez to parry. Then, Bengtson had a goal ruled out after he prodded the ball over the line after Costly's initial header had rebounded off the post.
It was unclear whether the referee had ruled for offside or a handball, but the goal was not allowed and Bengtson was booked as the teams headed into the break.
Honduras seemed the more dangerous side early in the second half as Brayan Beckeles saw his shot saved high at near post in the 46th minute. Bengston's deflected shot was also saved in the 60th minute, and Honduras had a second goal ruled out for offside two minutes later.
Ecuador then took the lead in the 65th minute, converting a free-kick that brought to mind their lone goal from the loss to Switzerland in the opener. Walter Ayovi curled in a free-kick from the left, and Valencia found space between two defenders before timing his leap perfectly and powering in his header at the back post for a 2-1 lead.
Honduras tried to hit back quickly, Roger Espinoza seeing his shot blocked in the 81st minute along the edge of the box and Maynor Figueroa missing the top corner five minutes later. But after seeing out four minutes of stoppage time safely, Ecuador were able to hold on for what could become three priceless points.
|Honduras Player Ratings|
|Juan Carlos Garcia (for Izaguirre, 46')||N/A||6|
|Mario Martinez (for Luis Garrido, 71')||N/A||6|
|Marvin Chavez (for O. Garcia, 82')||N/A||6|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
|Ecuador Player Ratings|
|Juan Carlos Paredes||7||7|
|Edison Mendez (for Caicedo, 82')||N/A||6|
|Carlos Gruezo (for Minda, 83')||N/A||6|
|Gabriel Achilier (for Montero, 90')||N/A||6|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
It was a very hard-fought match. I think we had a bit of difficulty keeping our nerves in check given what was at stake in the game, but I’m satisfied with my team. We played well but they played a bit better: they had more of the ball, took more shots and got the goals. It was an improved performance after our first match and although it wasn’t quite enough we can build on it for our next game. We know it’ll be tough to reach the next round, but it’d be even worse to have been knocked out already. We need to find a way to improve in order to win and while there’s hope, we won’t give up without a fight.
Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda (via FIFA.com):
There were changes in the starting line-up because the opposition was completely different to the previous one. The match panned out as we imagined it would. Both teams needed to win and both tried to play well. Even though we went behind, we got our goals at decisive moments and that put us in charge of the match. Yes, I do have some contrasting emotions after beating Honduras but fortunately we ended up as winners. We know that reaching the next round isn’t entirely in our own hands but we need to focus on our own game. We’ll have to play as well or even better than we did today to beat France because they’re a side that have grown a lot in the last few months.
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