Mark Gonzalez scored in the 75th minute to lift Chile to a 1-0 victory over Switzerland Monday in Group H action at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
The main storyline
Referee Khalil Al Ghamdi of Saudi Arabia handed out nine yellow cards, and a red card to Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami, in a game that failed to get into a rhythm. Al Ghamdi asserted his authority early, brandishing a yellow card to Chile's Humberto Suazo after only 90 seconds of play.
It was a sign of things to come.
Ten total cards were well short of the tournament record of 16 cautions handed out in one game (Portugal vs. Netherlands in 2006, and Cameroon vs. Germany in 2002) — thank goodness for small miracles. But the game was nowhere near as contentious as Al Ghamdi saw it, his gross over-zealousness ruining the match as a spectacle.
The defensive-minded Swiss played the majority of the match a man short, and that simply forced them even deeper into their bunker. Chile went in for the kill with their trademark swash-buckling brand of soccer, raining down on the Swiss penalty area with thunderous fury. The Swiss admirably weathered the storm before the torrential downpour became too much to handle.
Switzerland's defence remains practically unbreachable. Before Chile scored, the Swiss (who recorded four shutouts at the 2006 tournament) established a new World Cup record in the second half, going 551 consecutive minutes without conceding a goal.
That eclipsed the previous mark of 550 held by Italy at the 1986 and 1990 tournaments.
The winning goal
The stalemate was ended in the 75th minute when Esteban Paredes snuck behind the Swiss defence and was played into the box. The Chilean striker rounded goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and played a cross to the back post for teammate Mark Gonzalez, who nodded it home.
Turning point of the game
Al Ghamdi issued a questionable red card to Behrami in the 31st minute. After that, it was all one-way traffic. Chile made use of its numerical advantage and poured forward in numbers, putting the Swiss under a constant barrage of pressure before second-half substitute Mark Gonzalez scored on a header with 15 minutes left in regulation.
Man of the match
Paredes set up the winner, but he also made a number of dangerous runs and ran the Swiss defence ragged.
The Chilean perspective
"We are in a good position, and we have one more game to prove ourselves even more." — winger Mark Gonzalez
The Swiss perspective
"Getting a red card made it difficult to defend our goal for another 60 minutes, particularly against a team like Chile. The red card was not even a yellow card. Of course I was angry." — coach Ottmar Hitzfeld
Chile takes on Spain in Pretoria on June 25 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET), while Switzerland meets Honduras on the same day in Bloemfontein (CBC Bold, CBCSports.ca, 2 p.m. ET).