Berliner Tageblatt - USA and Uruguay make winning starts to Copa campaigns

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USA and Uruguay make winning starts to Copa campaigns
USA and Uruguay make winning starts to Copa campaigns / Photo: © AFP

USA and Uruguay make winning starts to Copa campaigns

Christian Pulisic scored one goal and set up another as the United States launched their Copa America campaign with a clinical 2-0 Group C victory over Bolivia on Sunday.

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In the same group, Darwin Nunez was on strike as 15-time Copa winners Uruguay beat a determined Panama 3-1 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

US captain Pulisic curled in a superb early goal before teeing up a second for striker Folarin Balogun just before half-time at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

That two-goal salvo was enough to secure a vital three points for US coach Gregg Berhalter's side.

"We came out flying with a lot of intensity," Pulisic said afterwards. "Obviously an early goal helped us a lot, but all around a pretty dominant performance."

Berhalter had warned his team against complacency against a Bolivia side who had won only one game in nine previous editions of the Copa America since 1999.

Pulisic was clearly in no mood to let the South Americans improve that record of futility, firing the hosts into the lead after only three minutes.

Receiving the ball from a corner on the left, the American captain darted towards the edge of the area and whipped a rasping shot goalwards.

Bolivia goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra got a hand to it but could not stop the ball flying into the roof of the net.

Despite that early breakthrough, the US struggled to convert their dominance of possession into chances thereafter and were frustrated by a combative Bolivian team who saw three players booked in the first 31 minutes.

Leonel Justiniano, Gabriel Villamil and Luis Haquin were all shown yellow cards by Italian referee Maurizio Mariani in an indisciplined start by Bolivia.

The US doubled their lead in the 44th minute and once again Pulisic was heavily involved.

Picking up the ball near halfway, the AC Milan forward accelerated towards the Bolivia penalty area and squared to Balogun, who took a touch to drag defender Jesus Sagredo wide before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.

The superior movement of the US forward line continued to cause problems for Bolivia after the restart.

Balogun just failed to get a toe on a low shot by Tim Weah in the 50th minute and had the ball in the net moments later but was adjudged marginally offside.

Pulisic then drew a fine save from Viscarra in the 60th minute after weaving into the penalty area and unleashing a ferocious shot.

Substitute Ricardo Pepi should have made it 3-0 in the 65th minute, moments after coming on for Gio Reyna, but saw his shot from an Antonee Robinson cross roll wide.

Pepi was then denied a goal in the 90th minute after a desperate double save by Viscarra.

- Relentless -

Marcelo Beilsa's Uruguay began in trademark fashion, swarming their opponents and pressing relentlessly and the Panamanians struggled to cope.

Maximiliano Araujo put Uruguay ahead in the 16th minute with a beautifully executed left-foot shot into the far, top corner.

Panama keeper Orlando Mosquera had to be at his very best to deal with the wave of attacks, parrying a fiere Nunez blast and the producing an outstanding giving save to keep out an angled header from Giorgian de Arrascaeta.

Mosquera's reflexes served him well again in the 29th when he denied Nunez from close range, the Liverpool striker having connected well with a low cross from Federico Valverde.

It was a very different story after the break, though, with Uruguay looking a little tired and Panama enjoying some sustained pressure.

But Bielsa's side gave themselves some breathing space when Nunez doubled their lead in the 85th minute, showing his superb technique to volley home a half-clearance from inside the box.

Matias Vina's perfectly timed header from a Nicolas de la Cruz free-kick put an end to the contest although Panama received some reward in the final minutes with Michael Amir Murillo finishing off a swift break.