David Luiz
David Luiz

Football striker Luis Suarez scored in his first international match in almost two years as Uruguay held Brazil to a 2-2 draw in their World Cup qualifier here.

Douglas Costa and Renato Augusto gave the hosts an early 2-0 lead on Friday before Edinson Cavani pegged a goal back for the ‘Celeste’, reports Xinhua.

Suarez, returning from a nine-game international ban for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during the 2014 World Cup, struck the equaliser with a customary cool finish just after halftime.

The result left Uruguay second in the South American zone’s World Cup qualifying standings with 10 points from five matches, three points behind leaders Ecuador. Brazil rose to third with eight points, above Paraguay and Argentina on goal difference.

Brazil had the luxury of leaving Chelsea midfielder Oscar and Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho on the bench as coach Dunga favoured Luiz Gustavo, Renato Augusto and Fernandinho to play behind a front three of Douglas Costa, Neymar and Willian.

And it looked like a masterstroke when Costa stabbed in a Willian cross at the far post after just 42 seconds. Neymar then pierced Uruguay’s defence with a sublime diagonal pass to Augusto, who showed fine composure by rounding goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and thumping his shot into an unguarded net.

Uruguay finally began to settle and they reduced the deficit just after the half-hour mark courtesy of Cavani. Alvaro Pereira’s cross to the far post was headed back into play by Carlos Sanchez and Cavani pounced to lash the ball past Brazil goalkeeper Alisson with an unstoppable first-time strike.

Neymar was involved in most of his team’s attacking moves as Brazil pressed for a third goal before halftime. The ‘Selecao’ captain saw his long-range effort fly just wide and then deftly laid the ball off to Costa who skewed a shot into the side netting.

Uruguay dominated the early stages of the second half as Brazil appeared flat-footed in the stifling heat.

Three minutes after the restart, Suarez capitalised on loose marking by David Luiz to run onto Pereira’s pass and expertly slot the ball past Alisson.

Dunga replaced Fernandinho with Coutinho in the 67th minute and the Selecao immediately looked more threatening in attack. The Liverpool midfielder was assertive in possession and went close to scoring a winner by drilling a 25-yard effort just wide.

Luiz was at fault again when his backward header was carried down by Suarez, whose shot was superbly saved by Alisson. The Internacional goalkeeper then blocked a dangerous Cristhian Stuani effort deep into injury time, ensuring Brazil escaped with a barely deserved point.

The hosts’ night was soured further by Neymar’s second yellow card of the campaign, ruling him out of Tuesday’s qualifier against Paraguay in Asuncion. Uruguay’s next match is against Peru in Montevideo, also on Tuesday.

The top four teams at the end of the South American zone’s two-year qualifying tournament earn an automatic berth at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The fifth-ranked side will advance to the playoffs.

    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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