Enner Valencia kept Ecuador alive in Group E with a stunning two-goal performance Friday in a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Honduras at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba.
Honduras, despite their first World Cup goal since 1982 on a 31st-minute Carlo Costly strike, face an uphill battle to advance out of the group and have yet to win a game in the tournament in eight tries.
Ecuador face a group finale on Wednesday against front-runners France. Honduras face second-place Switzerland on the same day and will need a win and Ecuador loss – not to mention a favorable goal differential – to advance.
DROUGHT OVER: Honduras opened scoring in the 31st minute and ended a 510-minute World Cup scoring drought when Costly got on the end of a goal kick from Noel Valladares and uncorked a first-time left-footed shot into the bottom corner. It was the first goal for Honduras since the 1982 tournament.
LEAD DOESN’T LAST: Los Catrachos’ long-awaited lead at a World Cup didn’t last long as Valencia took a deflection and hit a left-footed shot past a Honduras defender and inside the far post for the 34th-minute goal. He hit the winner in the 65th minute on a low header on a perfect free-kick cross from Walter Ayoví. The Pachuca striker became the first Ecuadorian to score two goals in a World Cup match, has now scored in his last six World Cup matches and has all three of Ecuador’s goals in this tournament.
NEAR MISSES: Both teams saw golden opportunities wasted early in the first half.
Valencia got behind the defense in the 20th minute and pulled down a long ball in the box for a clean look on goal, but his left-footed shot curled just around the post. Then Honduras’ big center back, Víctor Bernárdez, was left all alone on a corner kick in the 29th minute, but his header was off the mark.
Honduras were later denied twice in first-half stoppage time. A goal-bound free-kick blast by Bernárdez required a diving save by Alexander Domínguez. And then a Jerry Bengtson goal was waved off right before the halftime whistle for a handball.
COACHING CONNECTION: For the first time in World Cup history, two coaches faced off in the same game against a team they previously led. Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suárez led Ecuador to the Round of 16 in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. And current Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda coached Honduras in 2010 in South Africa.
MLS CONNECTION: There were plenty of Major League Soccer stars on display Friday in Curitiba. Bernárdez (San Jose Earthquakes), midfielder Boniek García (Houston Dynamo) and Bengtson (New England Revolution) all started for Honduras. Chivas USA midfielder Oswaldo Minda also got a surprise start for Ecuador. Minda's Chivas USA teammate, Marvin Chávez, was a late substitute for Honduras.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Valencia, Ecuador. He’s single-handedly keeping Ecuador in this tournament.