CURITIBA: It was a tale of two Valencias as Ecuador beat Honduras 2-1 in the FIFA World Cup.
Striker Enner Valencia seized the limelight with both goals against Honduras in World Cup Group E and left better known team mate and captain Antonio Valencia in the shade.
While Enner stood out as man of the match, Manchester United’s flying winger Antonio picked up a booking but made little impact on the game.
Coach Reinaldo Rueda, who had switched Antonio to a more central role, was asked point blank what was wrong with Ecuador’s most famous player.
The Colombian coach pointed to the English Premier League and Honduras defender Maynor Figueroa, who now plays for Hull City but was previously with Valencia at Wigan Athletic, among other British-based Honduran players who know his captain well.
Roger Espinoza, in the Honduras midfield, also plays at Wigan as does Juan Carlos Garcia, a second half substitute, while fullback Emilio Izaguirre is with Scottish champions Celtic. Such players are familiar with Antonio’s style.
“It was a difficult triangle for Antonio,” said Rueda. “They were very combative. And this year he (Antonio) has had difficulties with United. He didn’t play the last month of the season for various reasons including the crisis at the club (who sacked their manager) and this all affects your performance.”
Enner, who plays for Pachuca in Mexico, had none of those problems.
The forward has now scored three goals in the tournament after being a comparatively late addition following the sudden death last July of regular striker Christian Benitez due to a heart attack.
While his first goal was a classic poacher’s effort at the near post in a physical game of lunging tackles and high balls, the second was a repeat of the one against Switzerland in their opening 2-1 defeat.
The ball was curled in from a freekick by his veteran Pachuca team mate Walter Ayovi for Enner to rise and head home and he admitted they had practised the move on many occasions.
“We play together and know each other very well,” grinned the forward, who might have had a hat-trick but for an injury-time effort being disallowed.
“They were definitely the most important goals of my career. To score goals in a World Cup is something you dream of as a boy.”
Rueda, who previously coached Honduras, said the 25-year-old’s goals had made the difference between two well-matched sides meeting in a competitive fixture for the first time after 13 friendlies.
“For all of Ecuador the arrival of Enner in the national team last year has been really important,” he said. “He’s hardly been in the team 10 months, not yet a year with us, and he’s grown a lot.” (Reuters)