STRIKER Eduardo Vargas scored twice to lead Chile to a 2-1 win over 10-man Peru in the semifinals of the Copa America on Monday, keeping alive the host’s hopes of winning the South American tournament for the first time.
Vargas scored the winner with a long-range shot in the 64th minute, sending the home-crowd favorites to their first Copa America final in 28 years.
The winning score came only three minutes after Peru equalized with an own goal by defender Gary Medel. Vargas had opened the scoring in the 42nd.
Chile struggled early against its regional rival, but the momentum shifted after Peru defender Carlos Zambrano was sent off for hitting Chilean midfielder Charles Aranguiz on the back during a challenge only 20 minutes into the match.
Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, meets Paraguay in the other semifinal match on Tuesday. The final is on Saturday.
The last time Chile had made it to the Copa America final was in 1987 when it lost to Uruguay.
The Chileans have been dominant from the start of this year’s tournament, playing at home with its best team in years. But Peru made it difficult for the hosts at the Estadio Nacional on Monday, threatening several times on counterattacks even after going a man down.
Vargas opened the scoring off a rebound from Alexis Sanchez’s curling shot from outside the area. The ball struck the far post and returned straight to Vargas, who rolled it into the net. The striker appeared to be slightly offside at the time of Sanchez’s shot, but the referee let the play continue.
Peru equalized when Medel found his own net while trying to intercept a right-side cross by Luis Advincula. Five minutes later, however, Vargas gave Chile the lead again, sending a right-footed shot from outside the area over Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, who was out of position.
It was Vargas’ fourth goal of the tournament, allowing him to surpass teammate Arturo Vidal and Peru’s Paolo Guerrero as the competition’s leading scorer.
Vargas also had a goal disallowed for offside in the 49th, though the replay showed he appeared to be in good position to score.
Peru had the game’s first chance of the match with a dangerous header by forward Jefferson Farfan in the ninth minute. The ball struck the post with Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo already beaten on the play.
Chile was without central defender Gonzalo Jara, who was suspended for two matches for poking Edinson Cavani’s behind in the quarterfinals against Uruguay. CONMEBOL, football’s governing body in South America, initially suspended Jara for three matches, but the punishment was reduced on appeal.
Chile, Venezuela and Ecuador are the only teams yet to win the South American championship.