LIMA, July 6 (Reuters) - Hosts Peru overcame a two-goal deficit to force a 2-2 draw with Bolivia in their opening Copa America game on Tuesday, narrowly avoiding an embarrassing loss to the team considered the weakest in the competition.
Substitute Roberto Palacios, surprisingly left out of the
starting line-up, salvaged a point for Peru with a spectacular
volleyed goal four minutes from time in the Group A match.
Peru dominated the first half until Bolivia silenced the
fanatical home crowd in the 35th minute with a breakaway goal
from striker Joaquin Botero, who beat goalkeeper Oscar Ibanez
from close range after being put through by Miguel Mercado.
Peru, who have failed to score in their last two World Cup
qualifiers at home, continued their slick but unproductive
passing and when they eventually got into the penalty area,
Claudio Pizarro and Flavio Maestri both missed easy headers.
Bolivia, who rarely offer much of a threat away from
high-altitude La Paz, stunned their opponents with a second goal
early in the second half after another counter attack.
Peru goalkeeper Oscar Ibanez rushed out of his penalty area
but failed to clear the ball and Bolivia left-back Lorgio
Alvarez slipped the ball past him and scored from a seemingly
Peru suddenly came to life after playmaker Palacios replaced
the tired-looking Nolberto Solano in the 61st minute.
The Mexican-based veteran brought new life to the midfield
and within six minutes, Peru won a penalty when Ruben Tufino
brought down Walter Vilchez and captain Pizarro converted.
Just as Peru's desperation seemed to be getting the better
of them, Palacios found some inspiration as he flicked the ball
up on his right foot and then volleyed home with his left from
the edge of the area.
In the closing minutes, Peru poured forward in search of a
winning goal with substitute Andres Mendoza coming closest when
he headed wide after connecting with a curling cross from