Two own goals by Paraguay captain Alexis Duarte threatened to seal its fate, before the former defied odds to register an inspiring 4-2 win against New Zealand in a crucial Group B encounter here on Monday night.
Alan Rodriguez had put Paraguay on top when his staggering free-kick found the left corner of the net in the second minute. The side could've gone two up moments later, but Jesus Rolon's left-footed strike from over 40 yards out missed the woodwork.
That didn't deter Paraguay though, as it continued to pile attack on New Zealand which was deprived of its captain and key striker Max Mata owing to a suspension.
Elijah Just, leading the side in Mata's absence, came close to grabbing the equaliser when he fired one from the left of the box, but the attempt was thwarted away by opposition keeper Diego Huesca.
However, as the night progressed, Gustavo Morinigo's boys were dogged by a terrible slice of misfortune when two back-to-back own goals by Duarte (20', 34') propelled the Kiwis into pole position.
Just on the stroke of half-time, Charles Spragg of New Zealand squandered a chance to nip Paraguay's hopes in the bud, failing to convert a pass from Matthew Conroy - which later turned out to be a costly miss.
The second-half was all about Paraguay trying to catch up and New Zealand fighting tooth and nail to deny a share of the spoils. Surprisingly, the former kept 65% possession throughout the 90 minutes and its defenders did well to fend off the opposition attack, which appeared to have grown stronger by the minute.
And No. 11 Leonardo Sanchez came agonisingly close to drawing level when his header off Rodriguez's cross from a set-piece situation flew over the pole. Another window of opportunity presented itself in the 69th minute when Julio Baez's shot following a corner missed the target by a whisker.
However, Duarte could finally breathe easy as his side's persistent counter-attack reaped dividends with Anibal Vega's scoring twice in the space of three minutes (75', 78'), leaving the Kiwi defence in tatters while giving wings to an otherwise deflated Paraguay unit.
Soon after, substitute Blas Armoa widened the deficit with an effortless right footed shot to the left corner.
With Monday night's victory, Paraguay has now all but booked its place in the round-of-16 but there seems to be a pattern emerging here - the South American side, with its back against the wall, is fast becoming a master at the art of riposte.
- Asian Games 2023: Overall medals tally, September 25 - India 6th after women’s cricket team secures 2nd gold medal
- Asian Games 2023, Live Updates from Hangzhou 2022: India 5-0 Singapore in men’s hockey, Bhavani Devi dominates in group stage, Divyansh-Ramita pair qualify for 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team bronze medal match
- Shooting LIVE SCORE Asian Games: Divyansh, Ramita to play Korea for bronze medal match in 10m air rifle mixed team; Rhythm Sangwan, Esha Singh start well in 25m pistol - Hangzhou 2022 updates
- India vs Singapore hockey LIVE score, Asian Games 2023 updates: IND 5-0 SGP; Harmanpreet makes it five; Streaming info
- Asian Games 2023 schedule today, September 26: Indians in action, events, LIVE streaming details, timings in IST