Star striker Neymar scored a recaptured penalty as Brazil maintained their perfect start to South American World Cup qualifiers with a 2-0 win over Ecuador on Friday.
Richarlison had put Brazil ahead in the 64th minute and Neymar sealed the win well into stoppage time, but only after another VAR farce.
Referee Alexis Herrera initially gave a free kick to Gabriel Jesus after contact between him and Angelo Preciado in the Ecuador area five minutes before the end.
But after an endless four-minute VAR review, he changed his mind and awarded a penalty.
Neymar stuttered in his run-up but Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez was not fooled and saved his weak shot easily.
Ecuador was then attacking on the other side when Herrera blew his whistle and returned the game for Dominguez’s offense.
Neymar recaptured the penalty and this time sent Dominguez the wrong way.
The slapstick ending couldn’t mask a deserved win for Brazil, who are now four points to the top of undefeated Argentina’s qualifying list, with Ecuador in third, two points further back.
Unsurprisingly, Brazil dominated early possession with 75 percent possession in the first quarter.
But it took up to 20 minutes for them to first threaten Richarlison, millimeters away from a punching Neymar’s swinging free kick.
Moments later, Richarlison Gabriel played for goal, but Dominguez was quickly out to smother his porous effort.
Ecuador was their usual physical selves, but showed little of the attacking prowess with which they had scored 13 goals in their previous three games.
Neymar, in particular, felt the full force of Ecuador’s muscular approach.
Brazil thought they had taken the lead three minutes before half-time when Gabriel converted a cross from Danilo to the right, but Ecuador was saved by a narrow offside.
A minute later, Dominguez had to scoop up a raspy long-distance ride from Neymar.
Ecuadorian opportunities were scarce, with fullback Preciado flying over from 20 yards in 58 minutes.
Brazil national coach Tite had seen enough and brought on Gabriel Jesus for defensive midfielder Fred, who made his first appearance for the Seleçeleco since 2018.
The switch paid an immediate dividend. After Domingiuez saved from Neymar low on his right, he was badly beaten on his near post by a shot from Richarlison in the 64th minute.
It was a one-way street and Marquinhos headed over the bar before Dominguez partially made up for his earlier scream by saving low to the right to deny Gabriel Jesus and then blocking a shot from Gabriel with his foot.
Gabriel, whose nickname is Gabigol, then headed next to an empty net from Richarlison’s crotch in a lightning-fast counterattack after Dominguez fired a brash dart from his area.
But the real drama came at the end of the game when the VAR stole the headlines again.
Brazil travels to Paraguay on Tuesday, while Ecuador hosts Peru, before the Copa America kicks off in Brazil on June 13.