Alexis Sanchez netted the decisive spot-kick as defending champions Chile reached the Copa America semi-finals by defeating Colombia 5-4 on penalties. On Friday, the Manchester United forward held his nerve after Leon defender William Tesillo sent Colombia’s fifth attempt wide in a dramatic finish to their quarterfinal at Arena Corinthians here, reports Xinhua news agency. Chile had two goals ruled out by the video assistant referee (VAR) and had 59 per cent of possession, but they only managed two shots on target to Colombia’s one. The result earned Chile a semi-final berth against either Peru or Uruguay at Porto Alegre’s Arena do Gremio on July 3. Brazil and Argentina will meet in the other semifinal in Belo Horizonte the previous day.

It was the fifth consecutive time that Colombia have kept a clean sheet in the Copa America, a sequence that dates back to the 2016 tournament in the US. But they paid the price for their lack of a cutting edge in attack as Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado, Roger Martinez and substitute Duvan Zapata failed to find a way past Chile’s defence. Colombia head coach Carlos Queiroz made eight changes to the side that beat Paraguay 1-0 in their final group match. Meanwhile, Chile’s Colombian manager Reinaldo Rueda made four alterations to the team that lost to Uruguay 1-0 on June 17. The Cafeteros began the match in an energetic mood as James Rodriguez, Cuadrado and Martinez showed a willingness to cut inside and run at Chile’s backline.

However, it didn’t take long for the Roja to start dictating terms and they looked the more dangerous side when they forayed into the final third. Chile appeared to take the lead when Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina fumbled a seemingly simple cross and Eduardo Vargas fired in the rebound. However referee Nestor Pitana consulted VAR before ruling that Sanchez was offside in the build up. Sanchez then made a defence-splitting run and curled an effort just over the bar.

Colombia had few clear scoring opportunities, with Martinez letting the ball run away from him after a probing run into the area and Falcao failing to trouble Gabriel Arias with a tame 25-yard effort. Chile were again denied by VAR in the 72nd minute. Vidal angled a powerful drive into the bottom right corner of Ospina’s goal but, after a delay of more than five minutes, Pitana ruled that Guillermo Maripan handled the ball in the box moments before the strike.

The Roja continued to press and sent Colombian hearts fluttering once more as Sanchez’s lobbed effort was just kept out by a scrambling Ospina. However Colombia defended resolutely and – with no extra time in the Copa America quarterfinals – forced the match into a penalty shootout after the allotted 90 minutes. Vidal, Vargas, Erick Pulgar and Charles Aranguiz joined Sanchez in burying their spot kicks while Rodriguez, Edwin Cardona, Juan Cuadrado and Yerry Mina converted four from four attempts for Colombia before Tesillo’s miss.