Ecuador 2, Honduras 1
A pair of predatory goals from Enner Valencia propelled Ecuador to a 2-1 comeback victory over Honduras that lifted them second in Group E, above Switzerland on goal difference. An excellent Carlo Costly strike had put the Central Americans ahead, but Valencia equalised from close-range before heading home the winner at the Arena da Baixada.
The game started off at a frenetic pace, flowing from end to end, and Ecuador should have been ahead on 19 minutes. Enner Valencia timed his run to perfection to unravel the Honduran offside trap and go one-on-one with goalkeeper Noel Valladares, but the braided-haired No13 skied his shot.
It was then Honduras’s turn to spurn a great opportunity, with the funky-haired Victor Bernardez heading wide from close-range when a corner found him unmarked at the back post.
Costly showed his team-mate how it should be done on 31 minutes. A defender’s attempt to head clear a long ball bounced against Costly and fell into his path. Despite it bouncing awkwardly, the big 31-year-old exercised immaculate technique to thump the ball home from just inside the penalty area.
Ecuador were only behind for three minutes. Juan Paredes conned his marker and crossed to the back post, where Enner Valencia was on hand to scramble home.
A viciously struck Bernardez free-kick forced Alexander Dominguez into a save, before Honduras forward Jerry Bengston had a goal ruled out for handball on the stroke of the interval.
The second half continued in the same electrifying fashion as the first. Felipe Caicedo broke beyond the Honduras backline but Mayor Figueroa got back to slide it behind for a corner.
But Ecuador did get the game’s third goal on 65 minutes. Walter Ayovi whipped in a free-kick and his Pachuca club-mate Enner Valencia soared above Juan Carlos Garcia and directed a powerful, downward header into the bottom corner.
Honduras controlled possession thereafter, but they struggled to break down Ecuador’s steely defence. Figueroa did see one 35-yard thunderbolt fly just inches over, and close but not close enough was how it ended for Luis Suarez’s side, leaving them requiring a minor miracle to reach the Round of 16.