Quito: Brazil had to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Ecuador after Felix Torres’ header 15 minutes from time cancelled out an early Casemiro strike in a remarkable World Cup qualifier on Thursday.
The incident-packed clash saw both sides have a player sent off inside the first 20 minutes and Brazil goalkeeper Alisson shown a red card on two occasions only for both to be rescinded after consultation with the Video Assistant referee (VAR).
Ecuador will feel aggrieved at having a goal chalked off and two penalty awards rescinded by the VAR - including one in second-half stoppage time - but they got just reward for their resilience when Torres headed home from a corner.
Casemiro had put Brazil ahead after five minutes when he hammered home from close range after a goalmouth scramble.
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That was followed by a red card for Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez for a reckless challenge after 15 minutes before Brazil fullback Emerson Royal was dismissed for a second yellow card following a clumsy challenge five minutes later.
Five-times world champions Brazil have already qualified for this year’s finals in Qatar along with Argentina, who were without Lionel Messi but goals from Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez gave the visitors all three points against Chile.
Argentina opted to rest Messi after his Covid-19 infection but his Paris Saint Germain teammate Di Maria stepped up to give them the lead with a trademark curling shot from outside the box after 10 minutes.
Chile’s English-born striker Ben Brereton equalised just over 10 minutes later when he sent a fine looping header over goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
Argentina then took advantage of an injury to Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to seal the win 11 minutes before half time.
Ecuador are third in the 10-nation South American qualifying standings with 24 points from 15 games, seven points ahead of Colombia and Peru, who have a game in hand.
The top four qualify automatically for the World Cup while the fifth-placed side go into a playoff with a team from the Asian confederation.
Ecuador’s match against Brazil ebbed and flowed but was enthralling throughout, especially in the opening half hour.
Already a goal down, Ecuador’s keeper Dominguez was shown a red card on the qurter of an hour mark for a neck-high challenge that felled Matheus Cunha on the edge of the box.
But moments later, the numbers were even as Brazil full back Emerson Royal, who was shown a yellow in the first minute for a firm challenge, got a second for a clumsy intervention.
VAR to Alisson's rescue
Goalkeeper Alisson looked like he would be the third player to be sent off after 25 minutes but following a lengthy delay Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan overturned the decision.
Ecuador, on a home pitch where they had won 16 of their 23 points before Thursday, fully deserved the equaliser against a Brazilian defence that looked shaky throughout.
They thought they might snatch all three points when they were awarded a penalty in stoppage time after Alisson felled Ayrton Preciado in attempting to punch the ball clear and was again shown a red card.
But after consulting VAR the referee overturned the penalty award and red card to leave the home fans fuming as Brazil extended their unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers to 31 games to match the South American record they set from 1954 to 1993.
Bottom side Venezuela are the only team out of the running to qualify with most teams having four games still to play.