Peru advances to the Copa America semi-finals after defeating Paraguay on penalties

Peru advanced to the Copa America semifinals by defeating Paraguay 4-3 on penalties on Friday in the most exciting match of the tournament so far. Regular time at the Olimpico Stadium in Goiania ended 3-3 following a hard-fought battle that saw key players from both teams receive red cards and two goals from Peru’s Italian-born Gianluca Lapadula.

The decisive moment in the quarterfinal came after Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese stopped Alberto Espinola in the shootout. Miguel Trauco’s goal put the 2019 Copa America runners-up back in the race. Paraguay had also missed out on Daniel Martinez and Braian Samudio. Antony Silva of Paraguay intercepted Santiago Ormeno and Christian Cueva.

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“This was an amazing match,” a tired Lapadula said after the shootout, in which he converted from the spot. “We can’t choose adversaries, we have to think we are in the semifinal. Now we have to work to get there well.” Peru will face Brazil in the next match.

Due to a left thigh injury, Paraguay was without Miguel Almirón, one of its finest players in the tournament. After a corner, Gustavo Gómez pushed the ball into the empty net to give Eduardo Berizzo’s team the lead in the 11th minute.

After an assist from Andre Carrillo, Lapadula scored his first goal in the 21st minute from close range. After Paraguayan defenders stopped to complain about a foul, he added another in the 40th minute with a crossing shot from the left flank.

After taking the lead, the Peruvians were likely to advance, and Paraguayan defender Gómez was sent out in additional time after receiving a second yellow card. Paraguay, on the other hand, got out to a strong start in the second half and put pressure on Peru. Junior Alonso equalised in the 54th minute, smashing the ball past Gallese following a corner and chances kept appearing, especially in unexpected places.

After the ball deflected off a Paraguayan defender, Peru’s Yoshimar Yotn disappointed the Paraguayans with a score from the edge of the box in the 80th minute. But there were more twists to come. Peru’s André Carrillo drew his second yellow card five minutes later. Paraguay elected to press forward, which resulted in a late close-range goal by substitute Gabriel Avalos, who had come on eight minutes earlier to equalise the game and force a penalty shootout.

Lapadula said on Instagram that he had broken his nose during the tight bout. Lapadula, Yotun, Renato, and Trauco scored in the shootout to advance Peru to the semifinals. Angel Romero, Alonso, and Robert Piris da Motta of Paraguay also converted.

Peru will play its Copa America semifinal on Monday at the Nilton Santos Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.