(corrects first paragraph to clarify Uruguay and Venezuela
earned first wins of the tournament)
By Brian Homewood
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela, June 30 Uruguay and
hosts Venezuela registered their first victories in the Copa
America on Saturday, although both victories were marred by
foul play and refereeing problems.
On a wet, windy day in the Andean city of San Cristobal, a
bruising Uruguay beat Bolivia 1-0 in a Group A double bill
while Venezuela overcame Peru 2-0 after their opponents had a
player sent off in the 14th minute.
Mexican referee Benito Armando Archundia, caught up in a
storm last week for his handling of the United States v Canada
Gold Cup semi-final, also angered Peru by not awarding a
The game, which produced Venezuela's first Copa win for
three decades, ended in ugly scenes after Alejandro Cichero
played keepy-uppy near his own penalty area and was booked,
apparently for ungentlemanly conduct.
Cichero's behaviour incensed Peru, leading to a scuffle on
the edge of the area and pushing and shoving as the players
left the pitch.
Venezuela went top of the group with four points, followed
by Peru and Uruguay with three apiece and Bolivia with one.
"Venezuela did very little, we created five or six clear
scoring chances in the second half," said Peru coach Julio
"The sending-off influenced (the outcome) but we have to
accept it as part of football."
Peru, fresh from a 3-0 win over Uruguay on the opening day,
began brightly but the game changed in the 14th minute.
Pedro Garcia was involved in a fierce tussle with
Venezuela's Giancarlo Maldonado, but the Peruvian was sent off
for elbowing while Maldonado, who appeared to start the
incident, received a yellow card.
Television replays showed contact was made on the chin, but
Maldonado fell over backwards.
He laid on the ground, clutching his face in agony before
returning to his feet as soon as Garcia was dismissed.
Peru held out until halftime but four minutes after the
break, Cichero outjumped the defence to head in from a corner.
The visitors were protesting again in the 62nd minute.
Paulo Guerrero won a loose ball and crossed to Pizarro, who
appeared to be tripped by Hector Gonzalez as he tried to tap
the ball in.
Referee Archunda, who last week infuriated Canada by
disallowing what would have been a stoppage-time equaliser in
their 2-1 Gold Cup defeat to the U.S., waved play on.
Venezuela midfielder Richard Paez was sent off in the 78th
minute, picking up a second yellow card for petulantly kicking
the ball away after an offside decision.
But a minute later, substitute Daniel Arismendi burst down
the left, cut inside and scored with a low shot which crept
inside the post.
Vicente Sanchez's 58th minute goal was enough to give
Uruguay the points in the first match.
However, Bolivia were also angry as U.S. referee Baldomero
Toledo failed to punish some wild Uruguay challenges,
especially a scything tackle from behind by Carlos Diogo on
Toledo appeared uncomfortable in the pressure-cooker
atmosphere of South American soccer and struggled to control
(Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta in San
Cristobal) ((Editing by Martin Petty, Asia Sports Desk; Reuters
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