CUIABA, Brazil (Reuters) -Colombia got their Copa America campaign off to a winning start with a scrappy 1-0 victory over Ecuador on Sunday, with the goal coming from a beautifully choreographed free kick straight off the training ground.
Edwin Cardona scored three minutes from halftime when he started and finished a move that involved deft touches from two other players.
The goal was initially ruled out for offside but that decision was reversed after a review by the Video Assistant Referee.
“The move for the goal was something the players have been working on since the World Cup qualifiers,” said Colombia coach Reinaldo Rueda.
Ecuador had by far the better of the second half but they could not get the goal that their pressure deserved and fall to the bottom of Group B alongside Venezuela, who lost 3-0 to hosts Brazil in the tournament’s opener earlier on Sunday.
Rueda acknowledged his side had not been at their best but praised their commitment and said they managed the game “intelligently”.
“Ecuador didn’t let us play the game Colombia could have played,” he said, “The commitment the team showed was invaluable.”
Ecuador had beaten Colombia 6-1 in a World Cup qualifier in November but it was clear from early on there was little chance of a similar goal tally as clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.
Neither side were able to build up much of a rhythm on a pitch that cut up quickly and with the game repeatedly stopped by the referee's whistle for 33 fouls.
The result marked a third straight defeat for Ecuador while Colombia have gone three games unbeaten since Rueda took over as coach.
Both sides face Venezuela next, with Colombia playing them on June 17 in Goiania and Ecuador on June 20 in Rio de Janeiro.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Peter Rutherford)