LUIS Suarez scored a late winner as Uruguay sent England spinning to the brink of elimination from the World Cup last night with a 2-1 victory.
Liverpool striker Suarez grabbed the second of two opportunistic goals in the 85th minute of a tense Group D battle in Sao Paulo after Wayne Rooney had looked to have rescued a point for England with a 75th-minute equaliser.
The defeat leaves England, beaten 2-1 by Italy in their opening match, needing a miracle if they are to avoid failing to reach the second round of a World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Suarez – named English football’s player of the year after a superb season for Liverpool – had been a doubt for the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery in May.
However, the 27-year-old returned to haunt an England side containing five of his Liverpool teammates.
With both teams knowing that a defeat would likely prove fatal to their chances of progressing to the last 16, the game started cautiously.
But England’s inability to retain possession always looked likely to gift Uruguay an opening, and so it proved.
Loose play from England captain Steven Gerrard saw Uruguay break swiftly, with Nicolas Lodeiro releasing Edinson Cavani down the left.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker delayed his cross to perfection, leaving Suarez, who had ghosted clear of Phil Jagielka, to head back past wrong-footed England goalkeeper Joe Hart.
With England struggling to break Uruguay down for much of the second half, Suarez’s opener looked to be enough.
But 15 minutes from time Rooney tapped in his 40th international goal, and his first at a World Cup, after a low Glen Johnson cross to reignite their challenge.
England had looked the likelier to score thereafter, but five minutes from time the ball broke to Suarez off Gerrard and the striker raced clear.
The Liverpool man glanced up and then unleashed a ferocious shot.
Uruguay’s victory leaves England needing Italy to beat both Costa Rica today and the Uruguayans on Tuesday.
England would then need to beat Costa Rica in their final game to have any chance of qualifying on goal difference.
In last night’s earlier match, Colombia seized control of Group C when goals from James Rodriguez and substitute Juan Quintero gave the South Americans a 2-1 win against Ivory Coast.
The two nations won their opening games against Greece and Japan respectively and Colombia’s success in an entertaining contest puts them on six points at the top of the group, with Ivory Coast on three.
The match only really came to life in the second half and Rodriguez broke the deadlock in the 64th minute when he beat substitute Didier Drogba to the ball at a corner and sent it arrowing into the net.
Rodriguez dispossessed Serey Die six minutes later and Teofilo Gutierrez sent Quintero clear to finish coolly. – AFP, Reuters