MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, February 2 – Young winger Facundo Pellistri stole the show in only his second appearance for Uruguay as the two former World Cup winners bolstered their hopes of reaching Qatar 2022 with a 4-1 win over Venezuela on Tuesday .
Chile also gave themselves a lifeline as Alexis Sanchez scored a brace in a 3-2 win over Bolivia in South American World Cup qualifiers.
Ecuador moved closer to qualification with a 1-1 draw against Peru, which ended up in the intercontinental play-off spot.
Colombia’s hopes are nearly dead after failing to score for a seventh straight game in a 1-0 loss to Argentina.
Goals from Rodrigo Betancur, Giorgian de Arrascaeta, Edinson Cavani and a penalty from Luis Suarez gave Uruguay a second straight win under new coach Diego Alonso who propelled them to a four-place automatic final in the only South American group in which Brazil and Argentina has already booked its tickets for Qatar.
But it was Manchester United youngster Pellistri, who spent the last year on loan with Spain’s Alaves, who shone brightest.
His mazy run created the second goal and his trickery won the penalty converted by Suarez.
“He has what it takes to help us… pace when one-on-one, the trickery to exploit the defensive position,” Alonso said.
– The executioner of Venezuela –
With two qualifiers remaining at home to Peru and away to Chile, Uruguay’s World Cup fate remains in their hands.
They had a dream start in Montevideo as Cavani’s first-minute cross was half-cleared to the edge of the box where Tottenham’s new signing Betancur hit a sweet half-volley that clipped a heel and skidded past Wuliker Farinez in the Venezuela goal.
Uruguay were dominant and doubled their lead in the 23rd minute after Pellistri showed great trickery to beat three down the right and cut the ball in for De Arrascaeta to head home from close range.
Cavani, who had a second-half goal ruled out for offside, all but sealed the victory in first-half stoppage time with an opportunistic kick from six yards as the Uruguay players made the line up to finish off their tired opponents.
Pellistri continued to torment Venezuela down the right in the second half and won a penalty over Nahuel Ferraresi.
Farinez saved Suarez’s free-kick but referee Bruno Arleu ordered it retaken due to an encroachment and the Atletico Madrid striker made no mistake the second time around.
Josef Martinez scored a consolation in the 65th minute after a defensive error by Jose Gimenez.
– Stunning Sanchez –
In La Paz, veteran Sanchez scored a brilliant brace to revive Chile’s hopes of reaching Qatar after Thursday’s 2-1 home loss to Argentina.
The win left them three points behind Uruguay and two behind Peru with two points to play.
Former Barcelona and Manchester United star Sanchez, 33, rolled back the years as he opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a deflected free kick before scoring the killer third five minutes from time.
Marc Enoumba equalized for Bolivia in the first half before Marcelino Nunez gave Chile the lead again after the break. Marcelo Moreno completed the scoring late in the game but the defeat left Bolivia almost mathematically eliminated.
“It’s still not over, we have two important games left,” Sanchez said. “It was vital to win today in La Paz against tough opponents.”
Third-placed Ecuador would have secured qualification with a win in Peru as Michael Estrada gave them a second-minute lead after an error by Alexander Callens.
But he missed the target in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Pedro Gallese in the second half and Edison Flores made Ecuador pay with a header at the far post from a Luis Advincula cross in the 69th minute.
Colombia’s miserable seven-match scoreless record streak left them with little chance of qualifying for the Intercontinental Play-off.
Argentina dominated the entire game in Cordoba and deserved better than Lautaro Martinez’s 29th-minute winner.
Brazil ended Paraguay’s hopes of going to Qatar with a 4-0 thrashing in Belo Horizonte.
Philippe Coutinho scored the goal choice with Raphinha, Antony and Rodrygo also on target.