'Extraordinary' Rodriguez vital to Colombia: Pekerman

Colombia's James Rodriguez equalising against Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifier, which ended 1-1.
Colombia's James Rodriguez equalising against Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifier, which ended 1-1.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SANTIAGO • When Jose Pekerman welcomed James Rodriguez back to his squad, the Colombia manager said his side are "something else" with the "extraordinary" Real Madrid star. And so it proved in their World Cup qualifier on Thursday.

The forward, absent from Colombia's opening two qualifiers last month through injury, pounced in the 68th minute to secure a 1-1 draw with Copa America champions Chile.

The hosts, who dominated possession for long periods but struggled to break down a disciplined Colombian defence, had taken the lead on the stroke of half-time through a headed Arturo Vidal effort.

Chile are unbeaten in their last 10 matches and have seven points from three games. Colombia, quarter-finalists at last year's World Cup in Brazil, have four.

In another game on Thursday, surprise package Ecuador defeated Uruguay 2-1 to maintain their 100 per cent start to the qualifying campaign after three matches.

It marks their best start to the qualifying phase.

Ecuador took the lead on 23 minutes through Felipe Caicedo, the striker coolly tucking away a low cross from Juan Paredes.

But Uruguay levelled four minutes after half-time through striker Edinson Cavani, who headed home from Nicolas Lodeiro's perfectly flighted free kick.

But Ecuador, shock winners over Argentina in Buenos Aires last month, secured all three points through Fidel Martinez's second-half winner.

"(Ecuador) are a good team and they were playing at home where we suffered a lot," Uruguay's coach Oscar Tabarez told reporters.

"The altitude always has an influence. But I'm not going to use that as an excuse, it's not my style."

Meanwhile, Argentina and Brazil's eagerly-anticipated World Cup qualifying clash was postponed by torrential rain.

The "Superclasico" was rescheduled to take place this morning (8am Singapore time).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2015, with the headline ''Extraordinary' Rodriguez vital to Colombia: Pekerman'. Print Edition | Subscribe