Valparaiso, Chile: Bolivia clinched their first Copa America victory since 1997 on Monday with an upset 3-2 win over Ecuador.
Bolivia's footballers celebrate after their 2015 Copa America football championship match against Ecuador, in Valparaiso, Chile. Pic/AFP
The Bolivians, who had not won a competitive game on foreign soil since 1995, withstood a furious second-half fightback from Ecuador to leave their opponents on the brink of elimination from Group A.
Bolivia assured themselves of victory in the opening 45 minutes, punishing a series of mistakes by Ecuador to race into a 3-0 lead.
Veteran captain Ronald Raldes opened the scoring, taking advantage of poor marking by Ecuador to stoop low and head home a corner from Swedish-born midfielder Martin Smedberg-Dalence in the fifth minute.
Smedberg-Dalence turned goalscorer in the 18th minute to put Bolivia 2-0 up, curling home a superb shot from the edge of the area beyond the grasp of Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.
Ecuador were given a lifeline on 36 minutes, though, when West Ham striker Enner Valencia fell theatrically in the box after making minimal contact with Bolivia defender Edward Zenteno.
Bolivia protested but Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar pointed to the spot and Vale stepped up to bury the penalty. Yet Valencia was ordered to take the kick again after Miller Bolanos encroached in the area before the kick was taken.
This time Valencia's spot-kick was saved by Bolivia goalkeeper Romel Quinonez. Three minutes later, the tables were turned on Ecuador when Frickson Erazo was booked for a rash high boot on Damian Lizio inside the area, giving Bolivia a penalty of their own.
China-based striker Marcelo Martins stepped up to make it 3-0. There appeared to be no way back for Ecuador but Valencia struck early in the second half to give his side hope and Bolanos lashed in a stunning 25-yard effort on 81 minutes to set up a frantic finale.
But Bolivia keeper Quinonez was equal to the onslaught as the minnows held on for a famous win.