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LAS VEGAS: Ecuador’s defender #03 Piero Hincapie jumps as he celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament group B football match between Ecuador and Jamaica at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. – AFP
LAS VEGAS: Ecuador’s defender #03 Piero Hincapie jumps as he celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the Conmebol 2024 Copa America tournament group B football match between Ecuador and Jamaica at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. – AFP

Venezuela into Copa quarters after Mexico defeat, Jamaica out

Venezuela’s win confirmed Jamaica’s exit from the tournament

LOS ANGELES: Venezuela booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Copa America on Wednesday with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Mexico that ensured Jamaica’s elimination from the tournament.

Mexico-based veteran striker Salomon Rondon stroked in the only goal from the penalty spot to seal all three points for Venezuela, who are top of Group B with six points from two games. Mexico, meanwhile, can still qualify for the knockout rounds with a victory over Ecuador in their final group game on Sunday. But the Mexicans will be left kicking themselves at their failure to take at least a point from Wednesday’s clash with Venezuela at a packed SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

Mexico’s Orbelin Pineda missed an 87th-minute spot kick that would have made it 1-1, his effort parried away by Venezuela goalkeeper Rafael Romo.

Earlier, Rondon had fired Venezuela into the lead in the 57th minute from the penalty spot after Mexico’s Julian Quinones brought down Venezuela’s Jon Aramburu with a clumsy challenge in the area.

Venezuela’s win confirmed Jamaica’s exit from the tournament following their 3-1 loss to Ecuador in Las Vegas earlier on Wednesday.

Ecuador, beaten by Venezuela in their opening match on Saturday, held off a spirited second-half rally by the Reggae Boyz to claim a vital three points at the Allegiant Stadium. The South Americans looked to be cruising to victory after taking a 2-0 lead following a Kasey Palmer own goal and a penalty from Chelsea-bound teenager Kendry Paez.

However, Jamaica pulled a goal back from veteran striker Michail Antonio early in the second half, and then had strong claims for a penalty rejected 15 minutes before full-time.

Ecuador, however, made the game safe in stoppage time with a breakaway goal from Alan Minda as Jamaica pressed forward for an equalizer.

Ecuador opened the scoring with a freakish own goal in the 13th minute, Pierre Hincapie’s cross from the left taking a wicked deflection off Palmer and looping into the Jamaica net.

Ecuador doubled their lead from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time. Defender Greg Leigh instinctively blocked a header with his upper arm and after a lengthy VAR review, Chilean referee Cristian Garay pointed to the spot.

The 17-year-old Paez - who will join Premier League giants Chelsea in July 2025 when he turns 18 - stepped up to calmly stroke the spot-kick into the bottom corner. A rejuvenated Jamaica pulled one back early in the second half with Antonio jabbing home a low shot on 54 minutes after Ecuador failed to clear a corner.

Jamaica thought they had been thrown a lifeline with 15 minutes to go after a VAR penalty check triggered when Ecuador’s Alan Franco appeared to handle inside the area. But despite being called to the monitor to take a look at the incident, referee Garay decided there had been no handball and waved play on, before Minda’s late goal sealed Ecuador’s win. – AFP

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