Venezuela beats Ecuador 1-0 in Copa America

Updated: 2011-07-10 11:13


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Venezuela beats Ecuador 1-0 in Copa America
Venezuela's Cesar Gonzalez (bottom) battles Ecuador's Edison Mendez in the first round of the Copa America soccer tournament in Salta, July 9, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

SALTA, Argentina - Cesar Eduardo Gonzalez scored in the second half to help Venezuela defeat Ecuador 1-0 in the Copa America on Saturday, reaching first place in the tough Group B.

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Gonzalez struck a powerful right-footer from the top of the area in the 61st minute, giving the Venezuelans the lead in a group which also has Paraguay and South American powerhouse Brazil.

Venezuela has four points and is in good position to advance to the second round. Brazil and Paraguay, which drew 2-2 earlier Saturday, have two points each, while Ecuador remains with one point ahead of the final round of group play.

A draw against Paraguay will be enough to send Venezuela to the next round, while Ecuador will have to beat Brazil to have any chance of advancing.

Venezuela dominated the match at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, but it wasn't able to capitalize on its scoring opportunities until Gonzalez broke the deadlock with his long-range strike that gave no chance to Ecuador goalkeeper Marcelo Ramon Elizaga.

Venezuela outshot Ecuador 13-6, and only after allowing the goal did the Ecuadoreans begin to push forward.

They had a great chance to equalize in the 71st after striker Felipe Caicedo beat two defenders inside the Venezuelan penalty box, but his weak close-range shot was easily saved by goalkeeper Renny Vicente Vega.

Ecuador came close again in the 85th, but Vega pushed Christian Benitez's shot wide of the post.