Soccer

Colombia fans filled Hard Rock for friendly vs. Venezuela. The team rallied for a win

Venezuelan and Colombian fans celebrate the Friday night game

Venezuelan and Colombian fans gather at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens to celebrate the soccer match on September 7, 2018.
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Venezuelan and Colombian fans gather at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens to celebrate the soccer match on September 7, 2018.

Take a look at the stands at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday night, and the international friendly between Colombia and Venezuela being played looked like a one-sided affair.

A sea of yellow jerseys filled the lower bowl of the stadium and bellows of “Co-lom-bia” drowned out any semblance of cheering from the specs of burgundy inside the announced crowd of 34,048 people.

The crowd went home happy.

Colombia rallied from an early deficit with two second-half goals to win 2-1 after their high-pressure attack fell short early. Reserve midfielder Yimmi Chara scored the game-winner in the 90th minute, taking a deflected shot and striking it into the net to send the crowd into a frenzy as the final minutes of stoppage time came to a close. It was Colombia’s first match under interim manager Arturo Reyes, who took over the club after José Pékerman stepped down on Tuesday.

Colombia came into Friday’s friendly as the heavy favorite.

They were less than two months removed from their World Cup appearance, one that saw the club barely miss its second consecutive trip to the quarterfinals.

But in the early going, it was Venezuela that looked like the better team.

Venezuela, which was playing its first game in 10 months, quickly tested Colombia’s backline of Cristian Alexis Borja, Davinson Sanchez, William Tesillo and Santiago Arias, drawing its first shot less than a minute into regulation.

Venezuela then opened scoring in the fourth minute, with midfielder Darwin Machis taking a long cross and chipping a shot past Colombia goalkeeper Davis Ospina for the early advantage.

Colombia, the World Cup qualifier and No. 14 team in the most recent FIFA world rankings, spent the rest of the half living inside its attacking third and had chances to respond — a lot of chances.

But shot after shot after shot came up short. Crosses went wide. Shots blocked. One-on-one matchups failed. Set pieces didn’t pan out.

Venezuelan goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez Aray and his three-man backline of Wilker Jose Angel Romero, Jhon Carlos Chancellor and Rolf Feltscher held Colombia at bay to take its lead into intermission.

Colombia’s persistent attacking finally paid off in the 55th minute, when Radamel Falcao sent a beauty of a strike from just outside the box past Aray for the equalizer and Chara following up with the last-second game-winner.

Both teams played without some of their star players. Colombia rested attacking midfielder James Rodriguez and centerback Yerry Mina, while Venezuela did not play Adalberto Peñagranda, Roberto Rosales, Juanpi Añor and Mikel Villanueva in the friendly.

Friday’s matchup was just the latest showing with marquee soccer powers inside Hard Rock Stadium. The venue served as the site of one leg of the International Champion Cup in late July, with Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and Bayern Munich making their way to Miami Gardens for the preseason matchup. The ICC also held its inaugural women’s tournament, with the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League upsetting international powerhouse Lyon 1-0 in the final.

Hard Rock Stadium will host a friendly between Peru and Chile on Oct. 12.

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