Soccer-Rodriguez shines as Colombia beat Paraguay 2-1 in Copa America opener

Jun 24, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Colombia full-back Daniel Munoz (21) is congratulated by midfielder James Rodriguez (10) after scoring a goal during the first half against Paraguay at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) -James Rodriguez created both goals in Colombia's 2-1 win over Paraguay in their opening Copa America Group D game in Houston on Monday, as the 2001 champions extended their unbeaten run to 24 matches.

First-half goals from Daniel Munoz and Jefferson Lerma secured the victory for Colombia, who dominated the majority of the match, while Julio Enciso netted the lone goal for Paraguay.

Colombia's ninth consecutive win maintained an impressive run of 19 victories and five draws since March 2022, with their last defeat a 1-0 loss to Argentina in February 2022.

Munoz gave Colombia the lead in the 32nd minute, expertly heading a Rodriguez cross into the net.

Captain Rodriguez grabbed his second assist 10 minutes later when he whipped in a dangerous free-kick, with Jefferson Lerma's glancing header evading Paraguay goalkeeper Rodrigo Morinigo.

"We worked from the first minute, looking for the match; we knew it wasn't going to be easy, even though the team is doing well and is in good form, so we had to counter Paraguay," Colombia winger Luis Diaz told Caracol Gol.

"Fortunately, we scored two goals that gave us a good lead to make it more difficult for them... We are calm. I have no doubt that we will have a very good tournament and we will continue like this."

Paraguay intensified their efforts in the second half, with Enciso turning in Ramon Sosa's cross in the 69th minute.

Colombia thought they had a penalty in the 84th minute after Gustavo Velazquez appeared to have dragged down Yerry Mina in the box, but the referee was advised to check the monitor by VAR and the decision was overruled.

Paraguay struggled to create a solid scoring opportunity in the seven minutes of second-half stoppage time, as Colombia shut up shop and kept the door firmly closed.

Both teams are set to return to the pitch on Friday, with Colombia facing Costa Rica in Glendale, Arizona, and Paraguay taking on Brazil in Las Vegas. Brazil face Costa Rica in California later on Monday.

(Reporting by Field Level Media; Editing by Stephen Coates, Michael Perry and Lincoln Feast.)

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