San Jose: Grenddy Adrian Perozo scored a stoppage-time equalizer with the help of his goalkeeper as Venezuela rallied for a 3-3 draw with Paraguay in a thrilling Copa America Group B match on Wednesday.
Venezuela was trailing 3-1 but pulled one back in the 89th via Nicolas Fedor. Goalkeeper Renny Vicente Vega then rushed to the other end in the game's last play and met a corner with an angled header to set up Perozo's equalizer two minutes into stoppage time.
The result was still good enough to get Paraguay through to the quarterfinals, eliminating Costa Rica from the South American competition. Venezuela had already advanced.
The surprise of the tournament, Venezuela finished with five points in Group B, two more than a Paraguay squad that had three draws in the preliminary stage. Brazil and Ecuador will play the group's last match later Wednesday. The Brazilians have two points and need at least a draw to advance. Ecuador needs a win to progress.
"This is a team that works hard, has put in lots of hours, played lots of games and is asking for respect," Venezuela coach Cesar Farias said.
Farias offered reporters a 15-minute lecture after the match, upset that his team is often written off as the weakest in Latin America.
Fedor scored from inside the area with a low right-footer to put Venezuela back in the game, then Vega left his goal to help complete the comeback. He jumped high among several defenders and his own teammates and redirected the ball toward the net. Perozo came running in and easily headed it past Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar.
Vega celebrated as if he had scored the goal himself, running around the field while the other Venezuelans tried to catch him.
"We can't explain this," Paraguay striker Lucas Barrios said of Venezuela's late comeback. "In five minutes, they scored two goals. We leave with a sour taste in our mouth."
Venezuela had opened the scoring at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena with striker Jose Salomon Rondon's right-footer from the top of the area in the fourth minute.
Paraguay scored the next three goals, starting with right back Antolin Alcaraz' close-range shot in the 32nd. Striker Lucas Barrios scored from close range before Christian Riveros gave Paraguay a two-goal cushion with a header in the 85th.
But Venezuela hit back late. Usually the team expected to lose every time in South American competition, the Venezuelans have been playing consistently well in this tournament.
Paraguay's attack was disjointed and was weakened when leading striker Roque Santa Cruz was replaced by Nelson Haedo Valdez in the 42nd because of injury. Santa Cruz had scored against Brazil to become Paraguay's all-time leading scorer with 25 goals, equal with Jose Cardozo.
The Paraguayans had a 2-1 lead against defending champion Brazil 2-1 last Saturday until conceding a late equalizer.