ASUNCION, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Substitute Edgar Benitez struck late to give Paraguay, leaders of the South American World Cup qualifying group, a 1-0 win over bottom team Peru on Wednesday.
Benitez, called up to the squad last week as replacement
for the injured Roque Santa Cruz, scored from close-range in
the 82nd minute after a huge scramble in the Peruvian area.
The win guaranteed that Paraguay, who have won seven of
their 10 games, stayed top of the 10-team group with 23 points
and well on course for a fourth successive World Cup.
Peru, kept in the game by a series of saves from goalkeeper
Leao Butron, have seven points.
Peru took early control of the midfield and nearly went
ahead when Johan Fano's header was tipped over the crossbar by
Justo Villar in the 22nd minute.
Paraguay's best early chances came from free kicks on the
edge of the area and in the 28th minute Salvador Cabanas
deflected Barreto's effort towards goal but was thwarted by a
brilliant reflex save from Butron.
Butron produced two world-class saves in a minute as
Paraguay pressed after halftime, first turning away Victor
Caceres's powerful downward header and then blocking Nelson
Haedo Valdez's close-range bicycle kick.
Although Fano tested Villar with a low shot from 25 metres,
Peru were fading fast and a Paraguay goal looked only a matter
of time as they won a flurry of corners and free kicks around
the edge of the visitors' area.
It finally came after Peru failed to clear a corner.