AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Inspired by captain Énner Valencia, Ecuador impressed again at the World Cup on Friday in a 1-1 draw with favored Netherlands in a game La Tri deserved to win.
Valencia has become a talisman on the biggest stage and his 49th-minute leveler against the Dutch made him the top scorer at this World Cup with his third goal in Qatar.
It also extended the 33-year-old veteran’s streak to scoring all six Ecuador goals at World Cups since the 2014 tournament.
The result eliminated host nation Qatar just five days after the start of its home World Cup that cost about $200 billion to prepare.
The draw gave both the Dutch and Ecuador one point apiece to move them to four points in Group A. It left Qatar with zero points after losing 3-1 to Senegal hours earlier.
Ecuador dominated much of the game after Cody Gakpo fired the Dutch into a sixth-minute lead with a rising shot from the edge of the penalty area. It was the fastest goal scored so far in Qatar.
Ecuador leveled when Valencia passed the ball into an empty net after Pervis Estupiñán’s shot was pushed away by goalkeeper Andries Noppert
Almost the entire Ecuador squad joined their inspirational captain in a collective goal celebration. It created a powerful image of unity by kneeling together in a circle pointing to the night sky at Khalifa International Stadium.
Ecuador almost got a deserved winning goal minutes later when the Netherlands crossbar was rattled by a rising left-foot shot from Gonzalo Plata.
Ecuador plays Senegal on Tuesday, needing just a draw to advance, and the Netherlands will play Qatar.
Ecuador may have to do it without Valencia. He was stretchered off the field in the 90th minute. He was able to get up and walk the bench, where a bag of ice was taped to his right leg.
The Dutch managed their first-half lead efficiently without having another attempt on goal before Ecuador players were angered by a possible leveler being disallowed in stoppage time.
When Estupiñán deflected the ball into the net swept through a crowded goalmouth, the judgment was goalkeeper Noppert’s view of the original shot was blocked by Jackson Porozo standing offside.
Estupiñán was involved again in the valid goal that capitalized on ragged play throughout the Netherlands defense, after Noppert was almost caught in possession clearing the ball weakly.
Until Gakpo’s goal, Ecuador had not conceded a goal in more than 11 hours’ play, including seven clean sheets, since March when Argentina scored in a World Cup qualifying game that ended 1-1.
Netherlands had its seven-game win streak in group-stage play at World Cups ended. The Dutch through the first three games in 2010 and 2014 then opened in Qatar by beating Senegal 2-0.