Top five break clear

THE DAY REPLAYED - Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia all won on Matchday 9 of the South American preliminaries for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, and ended the first half of the competition in the four automatic qualification places.

Meanwhile, Argentina were held to a draw in Lima and drop down to fifth place, albeit four and five points clear respectively of Paraguay and reigning two-time continental champions Chile, who lost further ground on the leaders.

Below them lie Peru and Bolivia, who passed up another chance to move back into contention, while Venezuela remain winless and bottom and are now 14 points adrift of the qualification places with only nine games remaining. rounds up all the day’s action.

Matchday 9 results*6 October*

Ecuador 3-0 Chile Uruguay 3-0 Venezuela Paraguay 0-1 Colombia Brazil 5-0 Bolivia Peru 2-2 Argentina

Match of the day*Ecuador 3-0 Chile ECU: Antonio Valencia 19, Cristian Ramirez 23, Felipe Caicedo 46

*After going four games without a win, Ecuador produced one of their finest performances of the competition so far to ease to victory over an off-form Chile. Gustavo Quinteros’ side dominated from start to finish and would have recorded an even more emphatic victory had their finishing been sharper.

La Tri’s star performer on the night was Antonio Valencia, who scored the opener and provided assists for the other two goals. Ecuador have now won their last five qualifying meetings with Chile in Quito, while La Roja are on a three-match winless streak and have gone 243 minutes without a goal.

ElsewhereFollowing an unexpectedly testing first half, Uruguay made the most of their attacking firepower to see off Venezuela 3-0 in Montevideo, with a Nicolas Lodeiro goal and an Edinson Cavani brace helping La Celeste maintain their 100-per cent home record in the competition. Out front as the leading goalscorer in the Russia 2018 preliminaries with seven, Cavani is also now level with Diego Forlan as his country’s second-highest marksman of all time with 36.

Brazil had no such problems against Bolivia in Natal, with goals from Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Filipe Luis, Gabriel Jesus and Firminho securing them a 5-0 win. A Canarinha have now won all three of their qualifying matches under new coach Tite, scoring ten goals in the process and conceding just the one.

Despite twice taking the lead, Argentina had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Peru in Lima. Ramiro Funes Mori and Gonzalo Higuain were the men on target for the visitors, who were without Lionel Messi, while Paolo Guerrero and Cristian Cueva, from the penalty spot, scored for the hosts. The draw at least enabled La Albiceleste to stretch their unbeaten run in qualifiers on Peruvian soil to seven games (three win and four draws) over 31 years.

Paraguay’s home game with Colombia looked to be heading towards a forgettable goalless draw when Edwin Cardona conjured up an exquisite last-minute finish to earn the visitors all three points and help them climb up to fourth in the table. The scorer of another late winner against Bolivia in La Paz earlier in the competition, Cardona gave Los Cafeteros a fifth consecutive World Cup qualifying win over La Albirroja in Asuncion.

Player of the day*Neymar (Brazil)*

In the 68 minutes he spent on the pitch prior to going off with a bang to the head, Neymar scored one goal, set up two others and picked up a yellow card that will keep him out of Brazil’s next match. In scoring his 49th international goal, the Barcelona star moved past Zico on his country’s list of highest all-time goalscorers and now lies fourth behind Romario (55), Ronaldo (62) and Pele (72).

Did you know?Uruguay have become the first side since the current round robin system was introduced in South America – in the qualifiers for France 1998 – to win all their home matches in a complete round of games without conceding a goal. In fact, since losing 1-0 to Argentina in October 2009, in the last round of qualifying matches for South Africa 2010, La Celeste have gone 15 games without defeat at home, winning ten and drawing five of those matches, two of them coming in the continental play-offs.

What they said“Proud of my #Colombia #unidosporunpais”