QUARTERFINAL BOUND Ecuador moves into knockout round with 4-0 win over Haiti
By Michael Lewis
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Ecuador did what it had to do to keep its knockout round hopes alive at Copa America Centenario at MetLife Stadium Sunday night.
Riding the wave of a prolific attack, Ecuadorans remained unbeaten in the competition, recording a 4-0 Group B victory over Haiti before a crowd of 49,438.
The result boosted them to 1-0-2 and five points. Haiti, which was eliminated from the competition prior to the match, finished 0-3-0.
Ecuador needed to score six goals and hope for a Brazil-Peru draw in the second group-stage match of the day.
The South American side will play either the United States or Colombia in the quarterfinals later this week.
The opening 30 minutes of the match had a Ground Hog Day movie feel about it as the same course of events happened again and again.
Ecuador would bring the ball down as an open player would wind up taking a shot. More often than not, the South American side would miss, but it connected enough to grab a two-goal halftime lead.
Once in a while Haiti would gain possession, take the ball over midfield and lose possession as a similar sequence of events would start again.
The Ecuadoreans hit pay dirt in the 11th minute when Elner Valencia latched onto a Christian Noboa pass and beat goalkeeper Johny Placide from the left edge of the goalkeepers' box for a 1-0 advantage.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Haitians were celebrating again as Valencia ran onto a long ball from the back down the left side. As he motored into the area, he sent Jaime Ayoví a short square pass and the forward had little problems slotting the ball home en route to a 2-0 lead.
It appeared Ecuador was ready to break the game open, but slowly but surely Haiti regained its composure and ball possession enough to actually hold a 54-46 possession percentage at halftime.
Both sides smashed headers off the woodwork only minutes apart in the opening half.
In the 27th minute, Jerome Mechack headed the ball off the crossbar. The ball rebounded out to Sony Norde, who quickly nodded the ball into the net for an apparent goal. The score, however, was nullified as Mechack was ruled to be offside.
Two minutes later, Frickson Erazo tried to extend Ecuador's lead with a header, but slammed his attempt over the bar.
The game really opened up at the start of the second half as both sides had close encounters.
First, Ecuador second-half substitute Juan Cazares fired a shot that defender Romain Genevois managed to clear off the line in the 54th minute.
Barely two minutes later, Mechack drilled a 35-yard free kick that goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez leaped to his left to snare.
As it turned out, the Ecuadoreans found the net in the 57th minute as Noboa completed a quick and fancy passing combination with Valencia, Cazares and Jefferson Montero. Noboa chested down Montero's left-wing feed before powering the ball home for a three-goal bulge.
Norde came close to breaking the ice for the Haitians, firing a close-range shot from the left side of the box that Dominguez blocked in the 73rd minute.
The South Americans added to their total in the 78th minute as Enner Valencia and Anthony Valencia found themselves with a 2-man break on Placide. Enner slipped the ball to Anthony, who tapped the ball into the open net for a 4-0 advantage.
Prior to kickoff, a moment of silence was held for the shooting victims in Orlando that occurred early Sunday morning.