Navi Mumbai: Paraguay capped off another stunning performance, beating New Zealand 4-2 in their group B match at Navi Mumbai on Monday.
Despite New Zealand holding the upper hand at the halftime break with a lead of 2-1, the South Americans came out all guns blazing in the second half to guarantee themselves a qualification spot.
Two minutes was all it took for Los Guaraníes to break the deadlock. Set piece specialist Alan Rodriguez noticed New Zealand goalkeeper Jacob Clark too ahead of his corner post and curled it right in towards the top left corner to help his side take the lead.
The strike boosted the morale of the boys in red and whites, as they pushed the All Whites on the back foot with their constant pressing and an aggressive display counter-attacking.
Danny Hay’s men soon pulled one back during the 20th minute when Braian Odeja fouled New Zealand skipper Elijah Just outside the penalty area. But all it took was a blunder from opposition skipper Alex Duarte who tucked the ball into his own net.
The Paraguayan skipper had a moment of a nightmare once again during the 34th minute, helping the All Whites make it 2-1.
New Zealand skipper Elijah Just (making way for the red-carded Max Mata) beat Jesus Rolon in the penalty box on the left and split a through ball in the path of Williem Ebbinge only for Duarte to direct it back into his own net.
The script didn't change much during the second half as Paraguay dominated possession and found openings, but lacked that cutting edge in front of goal.
Paraguay were presented with a glaring opportunity during the 60th minute when Alan Rodriguez found Roberto Fernandez, who headed just inches wide off the post.
However, two substitutions by Paraguay coach Gerardo Aquino in the form of Anibal Vega and Blas Armoa changed the tale of the game.
The leveller came in the 75th minute when Paraguay talisman Leonardo Sanchez teed up Vega, who had his initial shot saved by an onrushing Clark, but the shot-stopper failed to keep hold of the ball, making it easy for the midfielder to strike from an open goal.
Three minutes later, Sanchez once again inspired the South Americans as he beat three New Zealand defenders in the penalty box and delivered a buttery through ball in the path of Vega, who made no mistake from a close range.
Armao finally put the game to bed in the 91st minute when he made a brilliant run on the right flank, cutting past Libereto Cacace before firing past goalkeeper Clark.
Two thrilling wins on the trot saw them top group B with six points, while New Zealand slumped to the third spot....