Ecuador rebounded from a hammering loss to Germany to claim a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over ten-man Panama in their Group E match. The South Americans pulled off a gutsy finish in Queretaro to stake claim on their first win at this tournament, moving them level on three points with Panama.
The win did not come easily, though, as Ecuador came out tentative and unwilling to let an attack slip by their defence. Play was trapped in the midfield and neither Panama or Ecuador took a shot on goal throughout the first 30 minutes. Ecuador had the first chance, however, with Jonny Uchuaris shooting wide. Minutes later, Luis Batioja found himself through on goal after an unusual slip from Panama captain Roberto Chen, but he bundled his effort the wrong side of the post.
From then on, the action began to heat up and Esteban Troya hit a shot just right of Ivan Picart’s goal. And, despite more chances for Ecuador, the deadlock was finally broken in Panama’s favour after a stunning free-kick effort from the on-form Jorman Aguilar in the 33rd minute. The forward, who scored the game-winning goal in Panama’s first match against Burkina Faso, struck from 25-metres out, curling his shot around a two-man wall into the net. Panama took a one-goal lead into the break, as a violent downpour of rain simultaneously soaked both the players and fans.
The second half presented a more inspired performance from Ecuador, and the South Americans were given a man advantage within six minutes of the restart when Omar Browne was sent off for a late studs-up lunge on Jose Cevallos. It did not take long for Ecuador to begin hammering their shots on target. Junior Sornoza tried his luck from distance, and had Picart diving to make the save, but it was right-back Jordan Jaime who found his side an equaliser. The defender flew into the air, just over his marker Chen, to drive home a powerful header into the lower-left corner of Panama’s goal in the 61st minute.
The goal was all the confidence Ecuador needed as they controlled possession and denied Panama any real time with the ball. Sornoza, itching for a goal of his own, followed up the equaliser with a rocket that rose just over Picart’s crossbar. And completely forgetting their opening woes, Ecuador capitalised once more in the 82nd minute to seal their victory. Joel Valencia, encroaching on the Panamanian box from the flank, slotted a perfect pass into Jose Cevallos, whose crisp one-time shot found its way into the net.
Now level on points, a result in their final group outing will be imperative for both Panama or Ecuador to advance through to the Round of 16. The Panamanians will be tasked with high-flying Germany on 26 June in Queretaro, while Ecuador are set to meet African champions Burkina Faso, who have yet to grab any points at the tournament, in Guadalajara.