Venezuela deny Paraguay in dramatic draw

Two late goals earned Venezuela a 3-3 draw with Paraguay in a dramatic Group B encounter in Salta which saw both teams advance to the Copa America quarter-finals.

Salomon Rondon had given surprise pool leaders Venezuela a fifth-minute lead, but Paraguay looked to be cruising into the last eight when goals from Antolin Alcaraz, Lucas Barrios and Cristian Riveros put them 3-1 up. Venezuela never gave up, though, despite knowing their quarter-final place was already assured, with substitute Miku reducing the deficit in the 89th minute and Grenddy Perozo heading home a stoppage-time equaliser.

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino had viewed the match as a must-win match for his side, but they could hardly have got off to a worse start at the Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena. Malaga forward Rondon took full advantage after Nestor Ortigoza was caught in possession, rifling a 20-yard shot past Justo Villar with less than five minutes on the clock.

Teenager Alexander Gonzalez should have doubled his side's advantage on the half-hour mark when he was played in on the right-hand side of the penalty area, but skewed his shot horribly wide.

Three minutes later, Paraguay were level. Barrios's looping header from an Aureliano Torres free-kick was somehow kept out by a combination of post and goalkeeper Renny Vega, but Venezuela were unable to clear the danger and Alcaraz lashed home a scrappy equaliser.

Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz was replaced by Haedo Valdez three minutes before the break, and the substitute made a key contribution to his side's second goal after 62 minutes. Vega made a smart save after Valdez had done well to get his shot away following a corner, but Barrios was in the right place to divert the ball into the net.

Paraguay looked to have put the result beyond doubt when Riveros flicked a neat header past Vega at the near post in the 84th minute.

However, Miku's deflected strike a minute from time gave Venezuela hope and, from the final attack of the game, goalkeeper Vega went up for a corner and provided the assist for Perozo to head in the equaliser.