Ecuador have almost certainly booked their place at Brazil 2014 with a deserved 1-0 victory at home to Uruguay. While it leaves them in a great spot ahead of their final qualification game against Chile, it now seems highly unlikely Uruguay will qualify without having to go through a playoff first.
The hosts made a lively start to the game and were easily the more dangerous in the opening few minutes. Striker Enner Valencia fired narrowly over the bar from the edge of the area before full-back Walter Ayoví shot straight into the grateful arms of Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera in the box, with Uruguay struggling to get into the game at all.
A low Luis Suárez cross which narrowly evaded the legs of his strike partner Edinson Cavani was just about all Uruguay had to show for their efforts before going a goal down on the half-hour, when Jefferson Montero bundled Antonio Valencia's low ball from the right over the line for 1-0. It was a deserved advantage for Ecuador, who had been the dominant outfit throughout the game.
Within five minutes of taking the lead Suárez offered up a stark reminder of the threat Uruguay pose in attack, though his spectacular effort on the turn went just wide. Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia was causing huge problems for opposite number Cristian Rodríguez, finding acres of space to exploit in behind the wing-back. He offered up an opportunity for Caicedo to double the advantage, though the striker couldn't convert.
They were unfortunate not to be two up within ten minutes of the restart after Antonio Valencia resumed his storming runs down the right, though Uruguay seemed to be ominously growing into the game. Ecuador keeper Alexander Domínguez just about smothered a long range shot before Suárez could pounce on the rebound, with La Celeste now in control of possession.
However, they couldn't seem to find a breakthough, and when Joao Rojas put the ball in the net soon after coming on, it seemed Ecuador had sealed the points. Thanks to an incorrect offside decision, a nervy finish was in order. Nevertheless, the hosts withstood the late Uruguayan charge to take a hugely important win, leaving them needing just a point from their final game against Chile to guarantee their place at next year's World Cup. As for Uruguay, they'll now almost certainly have to settle for the intercontinental playoff.
Ecuador lineup (4-4-2): Alexander Domínguez; Walter Ayoví, Jorge Guagua, Frickson Erazo, Juan Carlos Paredes; Jefferson Montero (Renato Ibarra 82'), Christian Noboa, Segundo Castillo, Antonio Valencia; Felipe Caicedo, Enner Valencia (Joao Rojas 71' [Alex Bolaños 90'])
Goals: Montero 30'
Uruguay lineup (3-5-2): Fernando Muslera; Diego Godín, Diego Lugano, José María Giménez; Cristian Rodríguez (Gastón Ramírez 78'), Jorge Fucile, Egidio Arévalo, Walter Gargano (Alejandro Silva 72'), Maxi Pereira (Diego Forlán 65'); Edinson Cavani, Luis Suárez