Chile beat Ecuador in Copa America opener
Last Updated: 12/06/15 7:56am
Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas were on target as Chile opened the Copa America on home soil in fine style with a 2-0 victory over Ecuador at a raucous Estadio Nacional in Santiago.
La Roja have never won South America's premier national tournament, finishing runners-up on four occasions, but Vidal's 67th-minute penalty and Vargas' late strike on the counter-break helped the hosts make a perfect start in Group A in this year's competition opener.
The occasion was soured slightly when substitute Matias Fernandez was sent off in added-on time but it did not affect the result, with Chile dominating from start to finish with Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez leading from the forefront for the winners.
Sanchez swathed through the Ecuador defence and skewed an early shot wide before his attempted lob was well read by Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.
The visitors, for whom West Ham forward Enner Valencia, Watford defender Juan Carlos Paredes and Swansea winger Jefferson Montero all started, were being increasingly penned into their own half by a rampant Chile side, roared on by their own fans.
Montero looked threatening in a rare foray forward but he lacked support, although Ecuador were managing to maintain resolute in defence as they sought to spoil their hosts' party inside the capital city stadium.
Right-back Mauricio Isla, who along with Vargas was relegated with Queens Park Rangers in the recently concluded Premier League season, combined with Sanchez in a sweeping free-flowing attack before shooting narrowly wide as Chile continued to pour forward.
Valencia had been a virtual by-stander for the opening 45 minutes but the Ecuador forward was in the thick of the action at the beginning of the second half, shooting wide following Montero's cutback to him in the area.
It acted as something of a wake-up call to Chile, with Vidal missing the target from just outside the area and Vargas forcing a near-post stoppage from Dominguez.
Jorge Sampaoli's men were gifted an opportunity to break the deadlock midway through the second half when Ecuador defender Miller Bolanos cynically pulled back Vidal in the box in an attempt to prevent the Juventus enforcer from shooting.
Vidal himself stepped up to take the spot-kick and he made no mistake, firing into the top right-hand corner, leaving Dominguez with no chance despite guessing the right way.
It was no less than Chile deserved, but they were almost pegged back when Valencia rose highest to plant a header against the bar, with Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo well beaten.
It was an unfortunate, yet costly, miss as Chile struck soon afterwards to all but wrap up the three points and a successful start to their Copa campaign.
Fidel Martinez's poor pass was pounced upon by the excellent Sanchez, who carried the ball up field for second-half substitute Vargas to curl across Dominguez with six minutes remaining.
Chile finished the match with 10 men though when Fernandez collected his second yellow card in the third minute of added-time for a poor challenge on Paredes, but it mattered little in the raucous Chilean capital.