James Rodriguez Colombia
Colombia skipper James Rodriguez lets his emotions out after scoring the winner against Paraguay in the Copa America Centenario Group A match, June 7, 2016.Reuters

This was a hard-fought, end-to-end, plenty-of-chances-created, a-few-yellow-cards-and-a-red-as-well, all-South American Copa America clash. A sleepy Copa America Centenario, that was just crawling through the group stages, finally woke up as Colombia and Paraguay played a game to remember at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena on Tuesday.

Coming off an impressive win over the hosts USA, Colombia were expected to cruise past Paraguay and assure their place in the knockout stages, and after Carlos Bacca and James Rodriguez put their team 2-0 ahead in the first half hour, that prospect only looked more likely.

However, Paraguay refused to just make up the numbers in this matchup, coming strong in a barnstorming second half to make a real game of it. Victor Ayala made it 2-1 in the 71st minute and just when the match was very much back in the balance, two yellow cards in the space of minutes for Oscar Romero gave Colombia the breathing space they needed to seal a 2-1 victory.

Colombia, who always looked dangerous when they poured forward, took the lead in the 12th minute, when Carlos Bacca, left all alone off a Rodriguez corner, headed home from seven yards out.

On 30 minutes, Rodriguez made it 2-0 with a sumptuous finish, across the goal and into the bottom corner, with goalkeeper Justo Villar left with absolutely no chance.

Despite being two goals down, Paraguay were never out of it, though, and while they put the ball in the back of the net off a freekick, the goal was rightly disallowed for offside.

The second half was one of those that you could not take your eyes off of, because if you did, you would probably miss a chance. Substitute Ayala, who had a couple of chances early in the second 45, finally halved the deficit with the strike of the tournament so far, a rasper from 25 yards that had David Ospina rooted to his spot and then looking away in despair as the ball rippled the net.

Not too long after that, however, Moreno lost his head, pulling down a Colombia player a couple of minutes after he had been booked. That allowed Colombia to just slow the game down a touch, even if it went chance-crazy again in the final moments, with both teams coming agonisingly close to adding another goal on the scoreboard.

It would stay 2-1, though, leaving Colombia thinking ahead to a quarterfinal match and Paraguay fighting for their place in the Copa America Centenario, with a win over USA, who beat Costa Rica in the first Group A match on Tuesday, necessary to stand a chance.