Peru draws on opening night

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Colombia opened its title defense by beating Venezuela 1-0. Host Peru was spared embarrassment by rallying to draw Bolivia 2-2.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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Colombia opened its title defense by beating Venezuela 1-0. Host Peru was spared embarrassment by rallying to draw Bolivia 2-2 on the Copa America's opening night. Coach Reinaldo Rueda gave his side no chance of repeating as champion, but Colombia impressed in winning its seventh consecutive Copa match without conceding a goal, and grabbing the lead in Group A. It took second-half goals by Claudio Pizarro and Roberto Palacios, who equalized five minutes from time, to allow Peru to escape a potentially humbling loss in its opener. On Friday, Peru plays Venezuela, and Bolivia meets Colombia. 14-time winner Argentina against Ecuador, and world No. 4 Mexico will face Uruguayin Group B. Tressor Moreno scored Colombia's only goal on a penalty kick in the 22nd minute, after Venezuela goalkeeper Gilberto Angelucci was called for tripping up Moreno. Venezuela beat Colombia for the first time last November and came to the tournament confident of ending its reputation as the easy beats of South America, but the defeat meant it's still seeking a second win at the Copa since its debut in 1967. On the attack Colombia wasted little time in testing keeper Angelucci, creating three dangerous scoring opportunities in the opening 10 minutes. Venezuela closed the first half playing on its heels, increasingly under pressure from wave after wave of attacks. David Ferreira had a chance to add to Colombia's lead in the 45th, slashing through two defenders, but his straight-on shot was easily handled by Angelucci. Venezuela came out after halftime energized and consistently challenged a disciplined Colombian defence. Juan Arango sent a long-range shot just wide in the 63rd as Venezuela showed more poise but no accuracy, as Arango and Jorge Rojas squandered more chances in the game's closing minutes. Sigh of relief Peru breathed a collective sigh of relief in its draw, after Bolivian goals by Joaquin Botero and Lorgio Alvarez threatened to derail the host's high hopes of riding home ground advantage to its first title since 1975. Peru came out on attack with Pizarro, Jefferson Farfan and Flavio Maestri spearheading an offense which struggled to finish off moves. Juan Jayo thought he gave Peru the lead in the 20th minute, running up to unleash a low drive from just inside the box, but it nicked the outside of a post. Six minutes later, Nolberto Solano beat a defender and fed Pizarro, whose close-range shot was saved by Bolivia goalkeeper Leonardo Fernandez. But Bolivia's Botero silenced the 45,000-strong crowd in the 35th with a blast that shook the back of the net. In the second half, Peru created a slew of good goal opportunities. But Bolivia went up 2-0 when Peru keeper Oscar Ibanez came out of his goal and failed to slow a sprinting Alvarez, who shot into the empty net. A moment of joy After scoring on a penalty in the 67th, Pizzaro kissed his finger and waved to the crowd, and grabbed the ball and ran to place it on the center spot so the game could quickly resume. An onslaught of Peruvian attempts on goal in the final minutes was finally successful when Palacios found the net, and consoled his team and expectant nation. (AP)

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