Goals by Vidal and Eduardo Vargas gave Los Che an opening 2-0 display, despite a resilient showing from dogged Ecuador.
The hosts took a stranglehold on the game from the opening whistle, as Arsenal Player of the Year Alexis Sanchez, found himself with a golden opportunity within just ninety seconds. Despite scuffing his shot, Chile continued to dominate the early proceedings.
Not one to be deterred, Ecuador’s youthful side, responded with counter pressure through Jefferson Montero and West Ham youngster Enner Valencia. Valencia was delivered a super opportunity when Jefferson Montero played him in, yet the West Ham man incomprehensibly aimed wide from close range and the opportunity went begging.
The rising tide of yellow pressure was finally stifled by Chile’s captain, Arturo Vidal. Off the back of a career defining season with Juventus, Vidal won a penalty after being fouled by Milner Bolanos. The midfielder shrugged off the challenge, and coolly slotted home from 12 yards, to give the hosts a vital 1-0 lead.
Ecuador however, began to address the Chilean threats from wide positions, and stifled them to grow into the game with every minute.
Alive to the mounting pressure, Jorge Sampaoli removed the redundant left wing-back, Jean Beausejour, and replaced him with another forward, Vargas, during the break. That had a limited initial impact but would become more significant later on, after the coach had also replaced the man initially selected as his playmaker, Jorge Valdivia, and instead given his star, Sanchez, creative responsibilities in a slightly deeper role.
The change proved vital, and Sanchez found Vargas with a peach of a pass, which the former QPR attacked slotted past Alexander Dominguez in the Ecuadorian goal.
A third goal evaded the hosts as Alexis again wasted a major chance, but the three points were in the bag. However, head coach Sampaoli would not be pleased.
He posts match comments shed light onto points of worry for the hosts, and how they might recover from there on out
“We had planned a match similar to the one against Brazil, with attacking players like Valdivia and Vidal. The plan worked well in the opening 45 minutes, but we struggled a bit after we failed to score,” Sampaoli said at the post-match press conference.
“Without doing much, Ecuador caused us some difficulties in the first half. They then hit the crossbar in the second half and got another good chance. Had Ecuador pushed forward more, they could have hurt us”
Despite the scoreline, Chile will have to be more convincing, if they hope to overcome their more elite opposition later in the tournament. Home turf seems only a conciliatory advantage, as Ecuador’s early pressure exploited the lop-sided nature of Chile’s set up. Sampaoli is contending with fitness issues, as star players like Bravo, Vidal and Sanchez are coming off of full league campaigns, with little relief in between. A second win for the Hosts will likely enable Sampaoli to rest key figures for bigger games later on.
Gustavo Quinteros’ side had their moments in this match, with Montero in particular occasionally looking very dangerous down the left. But they looked limited defensively and a bit short of confidence in the final thirda not a great combination for any side when it comes to a big tournament.
Ecuador will have to dig deep and produce something special, if they are to end their 10 match winless streak in the Copa America. Missing the stability provided by captain Antonio Valencia, the Ecuadorians will have to find some semblance of stability to match their energetic attacking line, if they are to have any hopes of progressing.