Uruguay 2 Ecuador 1: Coates and Rolan lift hosts
Uruguay extended their unbeaten run to four matches with a 2-1 win over Ecuador in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.
A pair of first-half goals from Sebastian Coates and Diego Rolan saw off the Ecuadorians in Montevideo on Thursday.
Uruguay had no trouble settling into their rhythm on home soil at Estadio Centenario, hitting the front through an unlikely source in centre-back Coates, who scored from a corner 12 minutes into proceedings.
Felipe Caicedo completed a swift counter-attacking move to equalise in the 45th minute but Uruguay responded immediately, restoring their lead in first-half stoppage time after Rolan turned in Carlos Sanchez’s ferocious attempt on goal, and it proved to be the match winner.
The result meant Uruguay provisionally moved top in the South American standings, with Brazil in action against Argentina, while Ecuador remain fourth.
Both teams were without some key players for the clash, with Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani absent due to a thigh injury sustained while in action for Paris Saint-Germain. Cristhian Stuani and Maximiliano Pereira were the only changes to the team that drew 2-2 with Colombia last month.
Ecuador were missing Antonio Valencia through injury and Luis Caicedo because of suspension after he was sent off in the 2-2 draw in Bolivia last time out. Enner Valencia, who scored twice in that match, did not feature in the squad.
It was one-way traffic early on as Uruguay dictated play and the tempo. Luis Suarez was in the thick of the action, almost setting up the opener but Stuani flashed his shot just wide of the post.
Uruguay, though, did get their goal and deservedly so three minutes later, Coates scoring from a corner after bundling home the set-piece with his thigh.
Ecuador struggled to keep possession and Esteban Dreer almost gifted Uruguay a second goal but after intercepting the goalkeeper’s pass on the edge of the penalty area, Suarez was unable to pick out a team-mate.
The Ecuadorians did not offer much of an attacking threat but as the half wore on they slowly began to find their feet and eventually equalised on the stroke of half-time.
Renato Ibarra led the breakaway goal, picking up the ball in midfield and guiding past his opponents before playing in Felipe Caicedo, who produced an exquisite finish across Fernando Muslera.
But after fighting hard to level proceedings, Ecuador’s joy was short-lived as Uruguay reclaimed the lead just seconds later, Rolan turning in Sanchez’s effort.
The chances in the second half were less clear-cut, both teams trying their luck from distance and while Ecuador huffed and puffed, Uruguay made it eight successive qualifying wins at home.