Matchday two in Group B of the Copa América did not produce quite as many goals as Group A the previous day, but still delivered two nail-biting matches in the form of Paraguay facing off against Jamaica and Argentina meeting Uruguay in the 199th instalment of the River Plate derby.
Two-time champion Paraguay was able to overcome Jamaica 1-0 in Antofagasta thanks to a bizarre goal from Édgar Benítez after 35 minutes, while Gerardo Martino’s Argentina managed to see off defending champion Uruguay 1-0. It was an ugly, tense affair in La Serena and a brilliant Sergio Agüero header after 56 minutes was enough for the Argentinians to claim all three points. The results from matchday two in Group B see Argentina and Paraguay both sit equal top of the group on four points, while Uruguay sit third on three points ahead of Jamaica on zero points. Both Argentina and Paraguay are assured of at least a third-place finish.
Ramón Díaz’s Paraguay faced competition debutant Jamaica in the day’s opening match at the Estadio Regional in Antofagasta, a fixture which most expected Los Guaraníes to win after their impressive comeback salvaged a 2-2 draw against Argentina in their opening game. Despite Jamaica’s resilience in the opening exchanges, Paraguay threatened to break the deadlock on numerous occasions as the half progressed and finally got its goal 10 minutes before the break. Jamaican keeper Dwayne Kerr came rushing out of his box to clear a lofted through ball from Víctor Cácares with his head, only to see his poor clearance bounce off the thigh of Édgar Benítez, over his head and into an empty net from 20 yards out, giving the Paraguayans a deserved 1-0 lead at half time.
The second half began with Paraguay threatening to extend its lead. Despite having a goal from Cáceres ruled out for offside, Los Guaraníes were unable to find a way past Kerr for a second time. The Paraguayans should have been awarded a penalty after 70 minutes, when Adrian Mariappa clearly blocked Roque Santa Cruz’s header with his raised arm, but Ecuadorean referee Carlos Vera was unsighted at the time of the incident. Even after a long-range rocket from Jamaican midfielder Garath McCleary that flashed just wide ten minutes from the end, Paraguay was able to record a relatively comfortable 1-0 win which sees it level on points with Argentina and a sure bet to progress to the quarter-final stage for the second successive tournament.
The other match saw the tournament’s two most successful teams, 14-time champion Argentina and record 15-time champion Uruguay, locks horns at the Estadio La Portada in La Serena. Tournament favourite Argentina needed a win from this match after a frustrating 2-2 draw to Paraguay. In a very tight opening 45 minutes, Martino’s men were the better of the two sides, as Ángel Di Maria and Sergio Agüero were unable to capitalise on two chances in quick succession for the Albiceleste. Emotions threatened to boil over on the touchline, as Martino was sent to the stands just after the half hour mark by Brazilian official Sandro Ricci. Los Charrúas saw two golden opportunities spurned by Bordeaux striker Diego Rolán during the first half, but their exceptionally strong and well-organised back line remained near-impenetrable as both sides entered the break scoreless.
The second half continued to be an extremely tight affair as neither side was able to break down each other’s impressive back lines. Agüero was able to finally break the deadlock after 56 minutes, scoring his second goal of the tournament with an exquisite header. Some neat work from Javier Pastore saw the PSG man pick out Pablo Zabaleta on the right flank, who fizzed in an inch-perfect cross to Manchester City team-mate Agüero. His phenomenal diving header from a tight angle flashed past Fernando Muslera to give Argentina a deserved lead. The remainder of the half was a typically ill-tempered affair, featuring the usual cynical fouls, scuffles and endless stream of yellow cards that have become synonymous with the River Plate derby. Rolán and substitute Abel Hernández called Sergio Romero into action late on, but were both denied by the Sampdoria keeper as Argentina held on to claim a huge, morale-boosting 1-0 win.