Brazil beat Venezuela to go top of South American group
MERIDA, Venezuela (Reuters) - Brazil went top of the South American World Cup qualifying group on Tuesday with a 2-0 win over Venezuela in a match played in torrential rain and halted for almost half an hour when the floodlights failed in Merida.
The five-times World Cup winners, who were without suspended Barcelona striker Neymar, took just eight minutes to open the scoring with a goal that mixed comedy and beauty.
Venezuela goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez tried to pass the ball to his centre half 30 yards from goal only for Gabriel Jesus to pounce on the woeful attempt and lift the ball over the keeper from 20 metres with the loveliest of chips.
Brazil controlled the game against a team that had not won in their nine previous qualifiers and they got a second their play deserved after 53 minutes when Willian snuck in at the back post to finish off a low cross from Renato Augusto.
Venezuela improved slightly as the game progressed but although Alejandro Guerra came close after an hour and Alisson saved well from Salomon Rondon with minutes to go, they never looked like halting the progress of their dominant rivals.
The only major disruption to the Brazilian march to victory came when the lights in the Metropolitano stadium went out after 73 minutes.
The game restarted little more than 20 minutes later but there was not much more excitement and Brazil coach Tite, who replaced Dunga in July, was delighted to record his fourth win in four games at the head of the national side.
The result allowed Brazil to leapfrog Uruguay, who started the day top of the table but could only draw 2-2 away at Colombia, into first place in the South American group.
The first four in the 10-team group qualify automatically for Russia and the fifth-placed side go into a playoff with a team from Oceania.
(Writing by Andrew Downie, editing by Nick Mulvenney)