Coutinho, Neymar strike late to give Brazil win

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Sports desk, June 22: Brazil got two goals in stoppage time to give them a deserved 2-0 win over Costa Rica in a tense World Cup Group E encounter on Friday.Philippe Coutinho stabbed home from six metres out in the 91st minute and then Neymar volleyed a second six minutes later to get the five-times world champions up and running in their pursuit of a sixth title.

Brazil were poor in the first half but pressed for goals in more urgent second period. However, they lacked poise in front of goal and Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas was in fine form.

Neymar thought he had a penalty with 13 minutes remaining when the referee awarded a spot-kick, then changed his decision after a video assistant referee (VAR) review and adjudging he dived.

The result takes Brazil to the top of Group E with four points, while Costa Rica have none and therefore exit the competition. Serbia, who have three points, play Switzerland, who drew with Brazil in their opener, later on Friday.

The clock had ticked past 90 minutes when Marcelo crossed from the left and substitute Roberto Firmino headed the ball back across goal to Gabriel Jesus.

Jesus’s first touch took the ball away from the defender and Coutinho raced in to poke past Keylor Navas from six metres out and claim his second goal of the tournament.

Neymar added the second with practically the last kick of the game, racing on to Jesus’s square ball following a quick counter-attack as Costa Rica were forced to push for the equaliser.

The forward, who thought he had won a penalty in the 77th minute only for the referee to reverse the decision after consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR), was overcome by emotion on the whistle, covering his face as tears streamed down his cheeks.

For long periods Costa Rica’s flat-back five kept Neymar on the periphery, with Johan Venegas and Cristian Gamboa both man-marking him out of the game as Brazil found it hard to carve out chances in the first half.

Marcelo’s tame shot straight at Navas in the 41st minute was the first effort on target from either side before the break, and the team went into halftime with the boos and whistles of their own fans ringing in their ears, reports agency.

Celso Borges spurned arguably the best chance of the first period for Costa Rica when he ran on to Gamboa’s cut back but shot wide from eight metres out.

The result means Brazil have avoided the ignominy of equalling their longest winless run at the World Cup.

Source: Agencies