Paraguay fought back after going down because of an early penalty but were merciless in the second half to beat Bolivia 3-1, in the 2021 Copa America opener on Monday.

Bolivia was without five players who tested positive for COVID-19, including striker Marcelo Martins, who scored seven goals in Bolivia’s last seven games.

Bolivia has not beaten Paraguay in a Copa America clash since 1963 but they got their hopes up early on in the game as they took the lead after just 10 minutes from the penalty spot.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) awarded a penalty for handball and Erwin Saavedra made no mistake to put the underdogs ahead.

Paraguay were also awarded a penalty midway through the first half but VAR overturned the decision due to an offside, and while they dominated the game, they failed to convert the pressure into goals.

Striker Kaku, who plays his league football in Saudi Arabia, was guilty of missing a sitter when he fired wide three minutes before halftime.

However, the game completely tilted Paraguay’s way in added time at the end of the first half when 19-year-old Bolivian forward Jaume Cuellar was sent off for a second yellow card offence.

Paraguay dominated from the restart and made the breakthrough after 62 minutes when Kaku’s low volley skipped past a diving Ruben Cordano.

After failing to win a match at the last two Copa America tournaments, Paraguay made sure of the points thanks to Angel Romero, who made it 2-0 just three minutes later when Cordano failed to hold a goal-bound header. Romero then doubled his tally when he smartly finished off a goal by slipping a shot between the keeper and his near post with 10 minutes left.

The result leaves Paraguay on top of Group A, ahead of Argentina and Chile, who drew 1-1 earlier on Monday. Uruguay will face their biggest test from Group A on Friday when they face off against Argentina.