Copa América - Paraguay reach final on penalties
Paraguay came through a penalty shoot-out to see off Venezuela 5-3 after their Copa America semi-final ended goalless in Mendoza.
With so much on the line a cagey opening was expected but it proved quite the opposite as both sides started at a frantic pace and the first 10 minutes produced a wide open game.
Paraguay came close to opening the scoring after just eight minutes as Edgar Barreto whipped in a free-kick from the right flank which was met in the air by Dario Veron, who was completely unmarked about 12 yards out. His header had power but Renny Vega got behind it well and turned it behind for a corner.
Barreto himself had a half decent chance as a poor clearance fell to him on the edge of the box but his first-time volley ballooned well over the bar.
The game settled down to a much more sustainable pace after quarter of an hour and chances were at a premium for much of the half.
The Venezuela captain Juan Arango suffered an ankle injury half an hour in and it looked like he may have to go off. He soldiered on but his delivery from set-pieces was poor from then on and he looked hampered by the knock.
Paraguay were having the better of the half but Venezuela came back into it in dramatic fashion with 10 minutes left of the opening period.
A deep cross from the right found Gabriel Cichero at the back post; he nodded the ball back across to Oswaldo Vizcarrondo who bulleted a header past Villar and into the net.
Unfortunately for Venezuela the header had taken the smallest of deflections off Salomon Rondon before reaching the goal and, with the forward in an offside position, the effort was ruled out.
Venezuela seemed to be buoyed by this and on 42 minutes they nearly had the ball in the net twice more.
Firstly a fantastic Alejandro Moreno header from the penalty spot hit the crossbar with Villar beaten. Rondon pounced on the rebound but the keeper was alert enough to make a great save from the second effort.
With Venezuela dominating the latter stages of the first 45 minutes, Paraguay were happy to hear the half-time whistle.
The following 45 were an absolute dirge as both teams were terrified to attack in fear of losing the game. Paraguay especially, as favourites, did not show any initiative and take the game to Venezuela at all.
That said Haedo Valdez did have a good chance to break the deadlock after a defensive mix-up saw him in on goal, but it was from a tight angle though and Vega blocked it fairly comfortably.
That was the only action of note of the second half as it petered out and the game slipped in to extra-time.
If the second half had been a bore, extra-time was anything but as substitute Miku and then Arango hit the woodwork within five minutes of the restart.
Miku's effort was a deflection of a Giancarlo Maldonado shot which beat Vilar but came back off the post; Arango's was a long-range drive which rattled the crossbar. Paraguay's goal was living a charmed life.
Paraguay's task got even tougher just before the extra-time break as Jonathan Santana received his marching orders after going in late on Rondon and picking up a second yellow card for his troubles.
Venezuela continued to push hard in the final 15 minutes but could not find the break they needed and the match went all the way to penalties.
You could see why Paraguay were happy for the game to go to spot kicks as their players produced a master-class of penalty taking giving Vega no chance at all in saving any of them.
Unfortunately you could not say the same about Lucena who was the only one to miss as his tame effort was easily saved by Villar.
Veron stepped up to convert the winning kick to send Paraguay into the final against Uruguay.