Debutant Jesus leads Brazil to milestone win

QUITO • Two goals from teenage prodigy Gabriel Jesus fired Brazil to their first qualifying victory in Ecuador on Thursday to reignite the South American giants' 2018 World Cup qualification campaign.

Jesus - who signed for English Premier League side Manchester City from Palmeiras in August - underscored his status as one of the brightest talents in Brazilian football with two late goals as new coach Tite's reign got off to a dream start with a 3-0 victory.

The forward also played a key role in Brazil's opening goal, winning the penalty which Barcelona superstar Neymar duly converted in the 72nd minute.

For once, though, Neymar, the hero of Brazil's first ever Olympic football gold medal last month, was outshone by his fellow attacker.

Jesus, making his first senior appearance, won the penalty after bursting into the area and drawing a foul from Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.

The 19-year-old - another member of Brazil's triumphant Olympic campaign - then doubled Brazil's lead three minutes from time with a sublime flicked finish after Marcelo's low cross from the left.

Forward Gabriel Jesus (left) celebrates with Neymar after scoring his first senior goal for Brazil. He scored again in stoppage time.
Forward Gabriel Jesus (left) celebrates with Neymar after scoring his first senior goal for Brazil. He scored again in stoppage time. PHOTO: REUTERS

It got better in stoppage time when Jesus surged forward against a ragged Ecuador defence to curl home a wonderful shot into the top corner.

The victory was Brazil's first win on the road in what has been a disappointing qualifying campaign so far, with the five-time world champions lying in sixth place, outside automatic qualifying, before Thursday's game.

Tite, who took over from Dunga after a humiliating first-round exit at the Copa America in June, praised his players' teamwork and thanked Palmeiras coach Cuca for his work with Jesus - as well as the City signing's previous coaches.

"I have to be fair. Cuca, Marcelo (Oliveira) and Oswaldo (de Oliveira) worked with Gabriel. It helped me a lot, I talked to them," he said. "It is my thanks. The victory was very much thanks to them."

Tite also lauded Neymar, saying: "The whole team was good, and so was he. The Neymar of Brazil, originating from Santos. A technical leader... he has several facets, competitiveness, behaviour. He fulfilled his role, closed space. The team had this spirit of solidarity.

"The players were great both physically and technically. We'll enjoy this moment and then evaluate."

It was also the first time Brazil has ever beaten Ecuador in a qualifier in the thin air of Quito, which is situated a dizzying 2,850m above sea level.

Tite also praised the contribution of his predecessor Dunga, saying the 1994 World Cup-winning captain had laid the foundations for Thursday's win.

"It was partly the legacy of Dunga - because the players were already adapted to play in their positions," he said.

Brazil will next face Colombia on Tuesday in Manaus.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2016, with the headline 'Debutant Jesus leads Brazil to milestone win'. Print Edition | Subscribe