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Rediff.com  » Sports » WC qualifier: Messi stars as Argentina rally to win over Columbia

WC qualifier: Messi stars as Argentina rally to win over Columbia

November 16, 2011 12:27 IST

Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez, club mates at Barcelona, sparkled as Argentina and Chile put behind them a weekend to forget with victories in the South American 2014 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

Messi led the fightback for a 2-1 away win over Colombia as Argentina fielded a world class trident in attack by bringing on Sergio Aguero to join Messi and Gonzalo Higuain for the second half.

Argentina's Sergio Aguero celebrates with teammate Lionel Messi (10) after he scored the team's second goal against ColombiaThe victory lifted Argentina into second place in the standings on seven points, the same number as leaders Uruguay, who have a game in hand, but behind on goal difference.

Venezuela are third, also on seven points, after a 1-0 home win over Bolivia with Ecuador and Chile, who beat Paraguay 2-0 at home, on six. Colombia and Paraguay have four, Peru three and Bolivia one.

Colombia, hosts to Argentina on a heavy Metropolitano pitch in hot and humid Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast, had the better of the first half and led 1-0 at the interval after Darlon Pabon scored with a free-kick that took a deflection off Javier Mascherano.

"Messi was decisive because he gradually wore down the whole of the rival defence," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said. "It was a very important match for us after two bad results... We had a huge weight on our backs."

Sabella, his team the subject of heavy criticism since Friday's 1-1 draw with Bolivia in Buenos Aires, went for the win in the second half with Aguero giving his attack the depth it had lacked for 45 minutes.

With Colombia's defence stretched, Messi equalised when goalkeeper David Ospina could not hold Jose Sosa's low cross and the Argentina captain pounced to slot home just past the hour for his second goal of the 2014 qualifiers.

AGUERO WINNER

With six minutes to go, Messi fed Higuain in the box, Ospina could only parry the striker's shot and Aguero, in hot scoring form for Manchester City, steered the rebound inside the near bottom corner.

"There's no doubt Messi makes a difference (even) without the clarity of many other matches," said Colombia coach Leonel Alvarez.

Argentina and Chile were both rewarded for their commitment to attack, even if it took Sabella 45 minutes to realise that cautious tactics would get him nowhere with a competent counter-attacking outfit like Colombia.

Chile, sticking to an all-attack policy, made home advantage pay at the Nacional in Santiago with goals by defender Pablo Contreras and substitute Matias Campos Toro.

Sanchez, who missed the 4-0 pasting by Uruguay in Montevideo on Friday through injury, was a thorn in the Paraguay defence while Matias Fernandez pulled the strings for a side shorn of five players suspended for a late, drunken return from time off last Wednesday night.

Venezuela followed up their 1-0 win over Argentina last month, with another sound home performance to beat Bolivia by the same score in a downpour in San Cristobal.

Defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo headed the only goal from a corner as Venezuela continued to ratify their exceptional fourth place at the Copa America in Argentina in July.

Ecuador, in fourth place with a game in hand, made the most of the advantage they get staging their home matches nearly 3,000 metres up in the rarefied air of the Andes for a second successive 2-0 win at the Atahualpa in Quito.

Edison Mendez, a veteran of Ecuador's first World Cup finals in 2002, and Mexico-based striker Cristian Benitez scored the goals in the final 20 minutes against a profligate Peru attack boasting three big-name forwards from the Bundesliga.

Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 in a friendly in Rome.

Adebayor back as Togo progress in World Cup

Emmanuel Adebayor returned for Togo after an absence of almost two years for a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday but it was Serge Gakpe who scored the only goal in their 1-0 home win over Guinea Bissau.

Togo's victory in Lome ensured progress to the group phase 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 away draw in the first leg last Friday.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Adebayor was making his first international appearance since a fatal attack on the team's bus ahead of the 2010 African Nations Cup finals in Angola.

He demanded increased security for the squad before agreeing to return.

Togo were finalists at the World Cup in Germany in 2006 but their poor form in recent years has seen them slip down the rankings and forced to play in the opening knockout stage of Africa's qualifiers for the 2014 finals in Brazil.

Adebayor's country will be joined in the next stage, which kicks off in June, by Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The Democratic Republic of Congo played at the 1974 World Cup finals as Zaire and are also seeking to restore past glories.

Their 5-1 win over Swaziland on Tuesday ensured an 8-2 aggregate triumph.

Namibia recorded an 8-0 aggregate victory over Djibouti after winning 4-0 in Windhoek on Tuesday.

Kenya beat Seychelles by the same score in Nairobi for a 7-0 aggregate triumph while Mozambique won 5-1 overall against Comoros Islands.

Lesotho upset the form book by eliminating Burundi on the away goals rule. The day's biggest upset was an away draw for tiny Sao Tome e Principe.

The former Portuguese colony had not played a match for eight years before Friday's first leg at home to Congo, a game they lost 5-0.

But instead of being on the end of another big defeat in the return in Pointe Noire, Sao Tome held their hosts to a 1-1 draw.

Africa's second round of qualifiers sees 40 countries divided into 10 groups of four. The section winners will progress to the final round of playoff matches in 2013.

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