Argentina thrashed Uruguay 3-0 in an enthralling World Cup qualifier on Sunday, with Lionel Messi scoring the opener.
Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez goals capped a successful night for Lionel Scaloni’s side in Buenos Aires, as they kept their unbeaten start to the qualification campaign intact and closed the gap at the top of the single South American table to six points behind Brazil, who drew 0-0 with Colombia.
“I think we’re developing a lot,” Messi stated after the game. “It was a difficult match that we needed to win.”
“Uruguay is dangerous because it sits back. We started looking for openings after we scored the first goal, and there were a lot of them.”
The first half was a typical end-to-end thriller, with both teams striking the crossbar before Argentina scored.
Luis Suarez of Uruguay looked active early on, creating three gilt-edged chances, all from the six-yard box.
Emiliano Martinez parried two of his shots, including an acrobatic volley, and his third effort rebounded back against the near post.
Giovani Lo Celso skied wide from 10 yards for Argentina, and Lautaro Martinez narrowly failed to guide De Paul’s cross on goal.
Lo Celso then broke from deep and rounded goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, but his effort hit the crossbar and bounced away to safety.
Messi’s low attempt was deflected inches past the post, and he subsequently broke the deadlock in an unusual manner.
Nicolas Gonzalez, whose presence seemed to fool Muslera, missed his chip into the box with the outside of his left boot, and the goalkeeper also missed the ball as it settled in the bottom corner.
When Muslera dribbled past Martinez in his area moments later, Uruguay’s nerves were unsettled, and Argentina extended their advantage with another scrappy goal.
Martinez’s miss-kick dropped pleasantly for De Paul to thump in after Messi’s ball was diverted into his path.
Martinez had an opportunity to seal the game in first-half stoppage time, but his attempt was blocked by Muslera.
On 62 minutes, he did secure the win when he was left unmarked at the back post to tap in De Paul’s cross.
Although the second half lacked the thrills of the first, Argentina maintained control of the game.
It could have been much worse for Uruguay had Muslera not made a superb last-minute double save from Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi.
NEYMAR IS UNABLE TO INSPIRE BRAZIL.
In Barraquilla, the returning Neymar was unable to lead Brazil to victory, as Colombia’s flawless start to the qualification campaign came to an end.
Before kick-off, the Selecao had won their first nine qualifiers, scoring 22 goals and leading the table by eight points.
Coach Tite’s team is still extremely guaranteed to qualify for next year’s championships in Qatar, as they lead fifth-placed Colombia by 13 points, with the top four teams qualifying automatically.
“Neymar did a good job as the team’s leader,” Tite added, “but he was well marshaled” by a Colombian team with “greater technical qualities than other teams.”
Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina made saves from Neymar and Lucas Paqueta as Brazil opened brightly and dominated the first quarter.
Paqueta was one-on-one with Ospina after Neymar’s brilliant reverse pass, but he pushed the ball wide on the stretch.
When Neymar teed up a teammate on the edge of the area, it was defensive midfielder Fred who arrived, and it was no surprise to see him blaze over the bar from 18 yards.
Colombia became more daring in the second half, with Alisson Becker saving chances from Mateus Uribe and Juan Quintero. Radamel Falcao had the ball in the net 20 minutes from time, but it was disallowed due to a foul on Militao.
Raphinha came close to scoring for Brazil with a wonderful in-swinging delivery that found fellow substitute Antony, only for Ospina to make a great reaction stop from point-blank range.
Bolivia defeated Peru 1-0 and Venezuela overcame Ecuador 2-1 on a bright day for the bottom two teams in the group.
Despite having fellow replacement Henry Vaca sent off on 75 minutes, Ramiro Vaca’s goal eight minutes from time handed Bolivia the victory.
Venezuela earned a remarkable victory thanks to goals from Darwin Machis and Eduard Bello on either side of a penalty from Enner Valencia.
Goals from English-born Ben Brereton and Mauricio Isla secured Chile a 2-0 triumph over Paraguay in the late encounter, despite having Charles Aranguiz sent off.