Messi Shoots Argentina into 2018 World Cup Qualifiers
Lionel Messi scored a first-half penalty as a below-par Argentina laboured to a 1-0 win over Chile in a 2018 World Cup qualifier on Thursday that put them back in the automatic qualifying spots in the South American zone.
Messi sent club mate Claudio Bravo the wrong way from the spot in the 16th minute after Angel Di Maria had been bundled down in the area.
Chile, without suspended midfielder Arturo Vidal, dominated the tie for the most parts and gave the hosts an early scare when they had the ball in net after a free kick from the left, only for Jose Fuenzalida to be ruled offside.
Argentina then caught a lucky break after referee Sandro Ricci ruled that Fuenzalida had pushed Di Maria as he chased a through ball from Javier Mascherano.
Messi made no mistake from the spot, burying the ball in the back of the net to a roar from a wildly passionate 60 000 crowd at El Monumental.
Nicolas Otamendi should have doubled Argentina’s lead from a Messi free kick just before halftime, but the Manchester City man blasted wildly over the bar.
Messi blasted over the bar moments later from a Marcos Rojo cross, while Chile’s Alexis Sanchez hit the bar with a free kick.
Sanchez and Nicolas Castillo had half chances for Chile later on, but Argentina held on for the valuable three points.
The result lifts Argentina into third place in the 10-nation South American group on 22 points, eight behind runaway leaders Brazil and one short of second-placed Uruguay who lost 4-1 at home to the Selecao.
Colombia, who ran out 1-0 winners over Bolivia courtesy of a strike by James Rodriguez, take the fourth qualifying spot on 21 points, one ahead of Ecuador, who lost 2-1 away to Paraguay.
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