Chile began their Copa America campaign on home soil in style with a richly deserved 2-0 victory overEcuador at a raucous Estadio Nacional in Santiago.
La Roja have never won South America's premier national tournament, finishing runners-up on four occasions, but Arturo Vidal's 67th-minute penalty and Eduardo Vargas' late strike on the counter helped the hosts make a perfect start in Group A in this year's competition opener. The occasion was soured slightly when substitute Matias Fernandez was sent off in added-on time but it did not effect the result, with Chile dominating from start to finish and Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez showing just why he will be one to watch in the coming weeks.
The former Barcelona man was a key presence in the opening minutes, first cutting through the Ecuadordefence and skewing a shot wide before his attempted lob was well read by Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez. The visitors were being increasingly penned into their own half by a rampant Chile side, roared on by their own fans. Swansea City winger Jefferson Montero looked threatening in a rare foray forward but he lacked support, although Ecuador were managing to maintain resolute in defence as they sought to spoil their hosts' party inside the capital city stadium.
Right-back Mauricio Isla combined with Sanchez in a lovely free flowing attack before shooting narrowly wide as Chile continued to push the pace. Ecuador forward Enner Valencia had been a virtual by-stander for the opening 45 minutes but he was in the thick of the action at the beginning of the second half, shooting wide following Montero's cutback to him in the area. It acted as something of a wake-up call toChile, with Vidal missing the target from just outside the area and Vargas forcing a near post stoppage from Dominguez.
Jorge Sampaoli's men were gifted an opportunity to break the deadlock midway through the second half when Ecuador defender Miller Bolanos cynically pulled back Vidal in the box in an attempt to prevent the Juventus man from shooting. Vidal himself stepped up to take the spot-kick and he made no mistake, firing into the top right-hand corner, leaving Dominguez with no chance despite guessing the right way.
It was no less than Chile deserved, but they were almost pegged back when Valencia rose highest to plant a header against the bar, with Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo well beaten. It was unfortunate, yet costly, miss as Chile scored almost immediately afterwards to all but wrap up the three points and a successful start to their Copa campaign.
Fidel Martinez's poor pass was pounced upon by the excellent Sanchez, who carried the ball up field for second-half substitute Vargas to curl across Dominguez with six minutes remaining. Chile finished the match with ten men when Fernandez collected his second yellow card in the third minute of added on time for a poor challenge on Paredes, but it mattered little as Chile comfortably held on to secure all three points.