Hosts Chile edge Peru 2-1 to reach Copa America final

Martin Bernetti, AFP / Peru's forward Jefferson Farfan (C) vies for the ball with Chile's Arturo Vidal (L) and Miiko Albornoz during theirCopa America semi-final clash in Santiago.

Striker Eduardo Vargas scored twice to lead Chile to a 2-1 win over 10-man Peru in the semifinals of the Copa America on Monday, keeping alive the host's hopes of winning the South American tournament for the first time.


Vargas scored the winner with a long-range shot that found the upper corner in the 64th minute, sending the home-crowd favorites to their first Copa America final in 28 years.

"I've been practicing shots from outside the area, I was confident," Vargas said through a translator. "I'm glad it went in."

Chile was heavily favored to advance but it struggled throughout the match against its continental neighbor.

The winning score came only three minutes after Peru had equalized with an own goal by defender Gary Medel.

Vargas had opened the scoring in the 42nd, and Peru was down to 10 men after only 20 minutes when defender Carlos Zambrano was sent off for hitting midfielder Charles Aranguiz on the back during a challenge.

Argentina meets Paraguay in the other semifinal match on Tuesday. The final is on Saturday.

Peru was trying to win its third Copa America and first since 1975. The team also lost in the semifinals in 2011 to eventual champion Uruguay and finished third.

"We leave with a sour taste after the elimination, we wanted to reach this final," Peru coach Ricardo Gareca said. "It's very difficult to play a man down for so long against a team of this level."

Peru had been the surprise of the tournament after advancing from a group that included Brazil and Colombia.

"We fought until the end," Peru striker Paolo Guerrero said. "We fought until the last minute and if we had stayed 11 against 11 the story could have been different."

The last time Chile had made it to the Copa America final was in 1987 when it lost to Uruguay.

The Chileans have been dominant from the start of this year's tournament, playing at home with its best team in years. But Peru made it difficult for the hosts at the Estadio Nacional on Monday, threatening several times on counterattacks even after going a man down.

"The ejection seemed to hurt us more than it hurt them," Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli said. "The anxiety turned against us and we ended struggling."

Vargas opened the scoring off a rebound. Alexis Sanchez's curling shot from outside the area struck the far post and returned straight to Vargas, who rolled it into the net. The striker appeared to be slightly offside at the time of Sanchez's shot, but the referee let the goal stand.

Peru equalized when Medel tried to intercept a right-side cross by Luis Advincula and put it into his own net. Five minutes later, however, Vargas gave Chile the lead again, sending a right-footed shot from outside the area over Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, who was out of position.

It was Vargas' fourth goal of the tournament, surpassing teammate Arturo Vidal and Peru's Paolo Guerrero as the competition's leading scorer.

Vargas also had a goal disallowed for offside in the 49th, though the replay showed he appeared to be in good position to score.

Peru had the game's first chance of the match with a dangerous header by forward Jefferson Farfan in the ninth minute. The ball struck the post with Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo already beaten on the play.

Chile was without central defender Gonzalo Jara, who was suspended for two matches for poking Edinson Cavani's behind in the quarterfinals against Uruguay. CONMEBOL, football's governing body in South America, initially suspended Jara for three matches, but the punishment was reduced on appeal.

Chile, Venezuela and Ecuador are the only teams yet to win the South American championship.



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