QUITO - Brazil drew 1-1 away to Ecuador in their World Cup qualifier on Sunday thanks to an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Ecuador outplayed the five-times world champions but were repeatedly foiled by the Inter Milan goalkeeper and then fell behind when substitute Julio Baptista scored in the 74th minute. Another substitute, Cristian Noboa, restored some justice by equalising in the 89th minute, although a home win would have been the fairest result after a pulsating game at the Atahualpa at 2,800 metres above sea level. Brazil have 18 points from 11 games in the 10-team South American qualifying group, five behind leaders Paraguay, while Ecuador have 13. Brazil, who drew for the sixth time in the campaign, were short on ambition and the ever-grinning Ronaldinho made a negligible contribution before being replaced by Baptista. "We knew it would be difficult and we didn't play our best football," Julio Cesar told Brazilian television. "Their players didn't stop running for one minute, we stood up well until the end and the goal was a punishment for us all." The first half ended scoreless thanks to Ecuador's poor finishing as well as Julio Cesar. The highlight was a double save when he blocked Edison Mendez's free kick and then saved Joffre Guerron's point-blank shot with his feet from the rebound. Julio Cesar also parried a Cristian Benitez shot and got his fingertips to a vicious, swerving Walter Ayovi effort to turn the ball around the post. Benitez twice headed wide while Antonio Valencia thumped a 20-metre shot against the post from 20 metres from other chances. The game followed the same pattern after halftime. Benitez was left with a free shot on goal after Lucio misjudged a long ball forward but the Mexican-based striker fired wildly over. Brazil were then caught out playing the offside trip as a long ball found Guerron on the right but his close-range volley was brilliantly saved by Julio Cesar. Brazil stunned the crowd when Baptista scored with a shot from the edge of the penalty area, which hit the post, struck goalkeeper Jose Cevallos on the back and rebounded into the goal. Ecuador levelled with one minute left when Mendez broke down the right, crossed and Noboa scored from the rebound after Benitez's first effort was blocked. There was still time for Julio Cesar to make another save on the line from a Benitez header.
30 March 2009
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