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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

FIFA U-17 World Cup: Anibal Vega double gives Paraguay 4-2 win over New Zealand

Two goals from Substitute Anibal Vega ensured Paraguay maintained their perfect start by beating New Zealand in a Group B match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Monday.

fifa-u17-world-cup-2017 Updated: Oct 09, 2017 23:25 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Paraguay trailed for nearly 41 minutes before making their comeback against New Zealand in FIFA U-17 World Cup match.
Paraguay trailed for nearly 41 minutes before making their comeback against New Zealand in FIFA U-17 World Cup match.(AP)

Three goals in the second half, including two in the space of three minutes from substitute Anibal Vega, earned Paraguay a 4-2 comeback win over New Zealand despite trailing for nearly 41 minutes in Group of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Monday.

The win lifted Paraguay back to the top of the group with six points, earning them a knockout berth in the tournament after 17 years. Paraguay started from where they had left off in the last match against Mali with Alan Rodriguez curling one in from a free-kick to send them into lead. It was in the very second minute of the game, and given the attacking flair they had displayed against Mali, it promised to open the floodgates.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Humidity, dehydration causes concern among teams

Resurgent Kiwis

Instead, around half-an-hour later it was New Zealand who had surged ahead, two own goals putting them 2-1 ahead at half-time. A Kiwi free-kick fell at Paraguayan captain Alexis Duarte’s feet, and he guided the attempted clearance in.

The equaliser seemed to galvanise the All Whites, with improvement in all sections of the pitch. While the free-flowing Paraguayan game was brought to a halt by Liberto Cacace and Boyd Curry at the back, Charles Spragg and Kingsley Sinclair made merry upfront. They went into the lead in the 34th minute after Duarte was unable to take his foot away, ending up guiding in Elijah Just’s cross. On paper, both had six attempts on goal in the first half, but the Kiwis were a better lot.

Tale of two halves

New Zealand seemed to have taken their foot off the pedal in the second half. Cacace was exceptional at the back and manned the defence single-handedly, pulling off some brilliant tackles in the box as well as a goalline clearance. However, once the wave of attacks that put Paraguay on the backfoot subsided, the South American boys clawed their back.

READ | India vs Colombia, FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, highlights: IND lose 1-2 to COL | Points table

Anibal Vega then scored two back-to-back goals within three minutes to send his side into lead. There was jubilation on the sidelines with an ecstatic coach Gustavo Moringo celebrating with the support staff.

The attacking burst, with just around 12 minutes of regulation time left, saw the Kiwis try and regain their earlier flair but the South Americans didn’t repeat their mistakes.

New Zealand did come close to levelling again in the 90th minute, but Matthew Conroy’s shot ricocheted off the cross bar before Blas Armoa blasted one to the top corner to seal things in style.

Despite the stunning comeback, at the end of the match, coach Morínigo expressed his concern regarding his side’s defence. “I’m very concerned about the defence. I’ve realised that we’ve been risking too much. I’m confident about my strikers but for the next game we must work on our defence and tactics. Our characteristic has forever been to go out and score goals. We’ve been lucky and we need to focus more on our defence.”

He also hailed Duarte’s contribution at the back stating that it isn’t always easy to cope up with the pressure of two own goals. “I feel everyone are the men-of-the-match but I must make a special mention for our team captain because we know he was guilty of scoring two own goals but he also helped in reverting the result,” he added.

First Published: Oct 09, 2017 23:00 IST

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