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Nine-man Ecuador pull off heroic win

Ecuadoran Agustin Delgado (C) heads the ball to score a second goal against Paraguay as its defense tries to stop it during a World Cup 2002 qualifying match in Quito, April 24, 2001. Photo Guillermo Granja, Reuters

Ecuador pulled off a heroic win over Paraguay on Tuesday, coming from behind to win 2-1 despite playing more than two thirds of the game with 10 men and losing captain Alex Aguinage through injury before halftime.

Striker Agustin Delgado scored twice to become joint top scorer in the South American World Cup qualifying group as Ecuador followed up last month's shock win over Brazil with another surprise.

The home team also had substitute Wellington Sanchez sent off in injury time for time-wasting, receiving a yellow card as he dallied over taking a corner and then a red as he still continued to take his time.

The game was marred when a fan ran on to the pitch to remonstrate with the referee. Ecuador, who have never played at a World Cup finals and are considered one of South America's weakest soccer nations, moved into third place in the South American group, overtaking Brazil who play Peru at home on Wednesday.

Paraguay remained second with 23 points after losing a seven-match unbeaten run in the competition. The top four qualify for the World Cup and the fifth play off against the winners of the Oceania region.

Ecuador, who have taken 19 out of a possible 21 points playing in Quito at 2,800 metres above sea level, launched themselves into attack from the start, creating a string of chances in the opening five minutes.

Paraguay Ricardo Tavareli, standing in for suspended captain Jose Luis Chilavert, made two excellent saves to keep the home team at bay early on.

The game turned dramatically after Ecuador defender Augusto Porozo was sent off in the 19th minute for hauling down Nelson Cuevas when the Paraguayan appeared to have a clear run on goal.

Ecuador's team fell into disarray and Paraguay went ahead in the 27th minute. Cuevas broke through the defence, his shot was saved by Jose Cevallos, Cardozo followed through and although Cevallos got a hand to his effort, the ball crept into the net.

Shortly afterwards a fan ran on to the pitch and remonstrated angrily with the referee, who was protected by Ecuador players.

Police only appeared on the field at this point when around 20 officials led the man away. Journalists and other identified people also came on, holding up play for three minutes. Then Ecuador lost their elegant midfielder and captain Alex Aguinaga with an apparent pulled muscle.

Just as Paraguay seemed to be in control, Ecuador equalised on the stroke of halftime when a long ball forward found the head of Ivan Kaviedes. He headed the ball into path of Delgado, who scored with a first time shot.

Delgado struck again eight minutes into the second half, heading in a cross from the right from Edison Mendez to join Brazil's Romario on seven goals in the competition.

Paraguay defender Carlos Espinola saved a third when he miraculously cleared a Sanchez shot off the line with Tavarelli beaten.

© Reuters Limited