Friday’s second Group E match saw Ecuador keep their World Cup hopes alive on the back of two remarkable goals from Enner Valencia, leaving La Tri with a chance to move on to the round of 16 if they beat France or if Switzerland loses to Honduras. The fate of Group E, unlike some of the other groups in the tournament, still hangs in the balance until the third round of group matches.
Los Catrachos started the game in their usual style, with Víctor Bernárdez earning a yellow card for a foul on Enner Valencia in only the sixth minute of the game. They progressed as the half went on, however, attacking much better than they did against the French team. Honduras pushed forward consistently and put pressure on Ecuador’s defense, while playing strong defense on their side, closing holes and cutting off passes.
Around the 20th minute, Ecuador was awarded three corner kicks in the space of about a minute, suggesting that Honduras’ clearance skills still need some practice. They seemed to have worked on making legal tackles, though, as there were more foul calls on Ecuador than on Honduras in the first half. Maynor Figueroa and Brayan Beckeles worked several double-teams without getting called for any fouls, concentrating their efforts on stopping the ball and not the player.
Carlo Costly found the net in the 31st minute. The Real España striker slipped past the Ecuador defense and caught a long ball from the back, bringing it to the ground before burying it in the near corner past Alexander Domínguez’s outstretched hand. The goal broke a scoring drought for Honduras that was seven seconds from setting a World Cup record.
Honduras was unable to break their winning drought, thanks to Enner Valencia. The 25 year old striker added to his goals in the 33rd minute, sliding feet first into a cross on the back post and kicking it past Noel Valladares into the net. Valencia would later score the game-winner for Ecuador.
The second half passed without any more goals. Jerry Bengtson came the closest in extra time on a rebound from Costly, but the goal was called back and Bengtson was given a yellow card when he argued with the referee over whether he had illegally handled the ball. Bengtson was also shown to be offsides on the replay.
The teams headed to the break with a 1-1 draw, which Ecuador knew would not cut it if they wanted to advance past the group stage. In the second half, Valencia kept Ecuador alive with another incredible goal, earning them second place in Group E, and La Tri has a shot of advancing to the round of 16 for the 2014 World Cup.
Beckeles put a beautiful shot directly on target, right to the upper left corner, but Dominguez knocked the attempt away. Antonio Valencia received a yellow card for a dangerous challenge on Óscar Boniek García in the 56th minute, but nothing came out of the free kick. Bengtson got a shot off of a corner kick a few minutes later, but Dominguez made another great save, and the result stayed.
Boniek committed a foul on Jefferson Montero in the 64th minute, and Walter Ayovi’s ensuing free kick led to a second goal for Enner Valencia. The striker scored off of a perfectly placed header almost identical to his goal against the Swiss. The comeback for Ecuador marked the eighth time this tournament a team has come from behind to win.
Honduras kept striking, and Enner Valencia was shown a yellow in the 72nd minute, followed by Montero in the 80th minute. These cards could come back to haunt Ecuador if they receive further cautions in their match with France and they advance to the next round.
The match ended after four minutes of added time, concluding the eighth win-less World Cup match in a row for Honduras. Enner Valencia saved the day for Ecuador, keeping them alive with two goals to win the match and maintain the possibility of snagging one of the top two spots for Group E to advance to the round of 16 for the 2014 World Cup. Ecuador will face France next Tuesday, while Honduras battles Switzerland, as all four teams still have a chance to move out of the group stage.
Commentary by Christina Jones