Argentina secure crucial win
Two-time World Cup winners Argentina secured a vital 2-1 victory in their 2014 World Cup qualifier against Colombia here on Tuesday.
Goals by two-time Ballon d’Or Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero saw the Argentinians, who have not won the trophy since 1986, come from behind to join Copa America champions at the top of the standings on seven points.
Uruguay — World Cup semifinalists last year — were not playing and instead beat Italy 1-0 in Rome in a friendly.
Messi, who has thus far had two disappointing World Cup finals campaigns, had called on his team-mates to raise their game after only managing a 1-1 draw with bottom side Bolivia last Friday.
However, the first half did not go the visitors’ way as first experienced defender Nicolas Burdisso was taken off on a stretcher in the 36th minute with what looked like a serious knee injury.
A minute before half-time it got worse as the hosts took the lead through Dorlan Pabon, his free-kick taking a slight deflection on its way into the net.
Messi was at the heart of Argentina’s game and his endeavours paid off on the hour mark as he was quickest to react when Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina failed to fend off a cross and the Barcelona star was on hand to level.
Messi shrugged off being brought down time and again by the physical Colombian defenders and started the move that gave the Argentinians their winning goal.
He fed Gonzalo Higuain, but the striker’s shot was beaten out by Ospina only for Aguero to knock it into the net and give Argentina a much-needed win as they seek to reach the finals hosted by arch-rivals Brazil.
“It was hard,” admitted Messi. “We did not deserve to go a goal behind, as they were not better than us.
“We wanted to forget about the draw against Bolivia. That was very hard for us but I think we managed it.
“Sometimes you play better, and other times you have to fight harder. This game was one of those days.”
Unheralded Venezuela drew level on points with Argentina and Uruguay at the group summit by winning 1-0 at home to Bolivia in San Cristobal through a 24th-minute strike by defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo.
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Chile bounced back from a 4-0 rout by Uruguay to defeat Copa America finalists Paraguay 2-0 in Santiago, while Ecuador prevailed by the same scoreline at home to Peru to close to within a point of the leaders.
Colombia 1 (Pabon 44) Argentina 2 (Messi 60, Aguero 84)
Ecuador 2 (Mendez 70, Benitez 89) Peru 0
Chile 2 (Contreras 27, Campos Toro 85) Paraguay 0
Venezuela 1 (Vizcarrondo 24)
-With AFP/The Daily Star input