SANTIAGO: Eduardo Vargas scored twice as Chile downed fierce rivals Peru 2-1 on Monday to reach the Copa America final for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Vargas, who endured a miserable season on loan at relegated English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers, lashed in a stunning 64th-minute strike as the hosts advanced to the final for the first time since 1987.
The latest instalment of Chile and Peru’s long-standing football rivalry — known as the “Clasico del Pacifico” — burst into life after only four minutes, when Chile’s Arturo Vidal tangled angrily with Carlos Zambrano.
Vidal was fortunate to escape a sending off for thrusting a hand in Zambrano’s face as tempers threatened to boil over.
Moments later, Venezuelan referee Jose Argota moved to nip the tensions in the bud, showing Zambrano a yellow card for tugging down Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez.
Yet while Chile made the brighter start, it was Peru who came closest to scoring, with Jefferson Farfan’s header from a Paolo Guerrero cross cannoning back off the woodwork.
However, the match turned in the 20th minute after Zambrano’s dismissal. The centre-half was given his marching orders after catching Charles Aranguiz with an ugly studs-up challenge as he followed through after a clearance.
Sensing Peru’s vulnerability, Chile turned up the pressure and might have opened the scoring through Jorge Valdivia on 28 minutes, only for the influential playmaker’s curling shot to fly just wide.
Six minutes later, Chile were denied again when Peru defender Luis Advincula produced a superb last-ditch block from Vargas to clear.
Three minutes before half-time, though, Peru’s resistance broke when Sanchez’s cross from the left bounced back off the inside of the upright for Vargas to bundle home from close range.
The goal was harsh on Peru, though, as replays showed Vargas was fractionally offside when Sanchez crossed.
Chile sought to press home their advantage after the break and Vargas was unlucky to see a superb volleyed goal ruled out.
Peru clawed their way back into the contest on the hour mark when Guerrero released Advincula down the right. The fullback’s cross caused havoc in the Chile area and Medel panicked and prodded home past Claudio Bravo.
Peru’s celebrations were short-lived though when Vargas crashed in his winning goal four minutes later.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2015.
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