WC Qualifiers: Lavezzi scores two as Argentina make light of Messi absence
Striker Ezequiel Lavezzi scored two first half goals as Argentina, lacking four key players including Lionel Messi, beat Peru 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier at the Monumental on Friday.
The team, captained by winger Angel Di Maria for the first time and with Sergio Aguero wearing Messi's number 10 shirt, lacked their usual spark but were too slick for Peru.
Argentina, who qualified last month for the 2014 finals in Brazil, wanted to make sure they stayed top of the South American group with one match to go, at Uruguay in Montevideo on Tuesday.
Also missing midfielders Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago, coach Alejandro Sabella fielded reserves Lavezzi and Rodrigo Palacio up front with Aguero.
Image: Ezequiel Lavezzi of Argentina celebrates a scored goal
Photographs: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
'We're in good shape'
"I think that fortunately I made the most of my chance (in the team). I'm happy because the team were missing some important players and we won again," Lavezzi said.
"It's important that the forwards score, it means we're in good shape."
Peru, who had long lost their chances of reaching the finals, began with purpose and their quest for a rare win was rewarded with a fine goal by striker Claudio Pizarro with a long-range shot that dipped over goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Argentina's reply was quick with Lavezzi firing home at a corner less than two minutes later in the 23rd when goalkeeper Diego Penny failed to hold a header by central defender Federico Fernandez.
The home side went ahead in the 35th when Di Maria put Palacio in possession on the right and Lavezzi, racing down the middle, turned his cross into the net.
Palacio scored Argentina's third from left back Marcos Rojo's cross two minutes after the interval.
Image: Sergio Aguero (right) of Argentina vies for the ball with Gianmarco Gambetta of Peru
Photographs: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Stunning Jimenez goal revives Mexico's campaign
Raul Jimenez scored an unbelievable goal five minutes from full-time to rescue Mexico's faltering World Cup campaign with a crucial 2-1 win over Panama at the Azteca Stadium on Friday.
Facing the real prospect of failing to qualify for the first time since 1990, Mexico moved back into contention after Jimenez's spectacular goal at the Azteca Stadium.
Just moments after Luis Tejada had equalised for Panama, sending the crowd into a state of despair, Jimenez produced a perfectly executed bicycle kick on the edge of the box to give his team victory after Oribe Peralta's first half strike.
"Sometimes you just have to find a way to score a goal," said Jimenez, speaking to ESPN through a translator.
Image: Raul Jimenez (22) of Mexico celebrates with team mates Javier Hernandez (rear) and Oribe Peralta (19)
Photographs: Henry Romero/Reuters
'Very important victory for the team'
The dramatic result moved Mexico into fourth place in the six-nation CONCACAF standings on 11 points with one round of matches to go.
The top three teams qualify automatically with the fourth advancing to a two-leg playoff against Oceania winners New Zealand.
Honduras occupy the third spot on 14 points and need just a draw in their final game on Tuesday against Jamaica to clinch their spot in Brazil.
Mexico only need a point from their final match against Costa Rica to be assured of getting the playoff spot.
They can claim the last automatic berth if they win and Honduras lose to Jamaica, who have not won a game in the final round of qualifying.
"This was a very important victory for the team" Mexico captain Rafael Marquez said.
Traditionally the strongest team in the CONCACAF region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, Mexico have qualified for every World Cup since 1982, with the exception of 1990 when they were banned by FIFA after fielding over-age players in a youth tournament.
Image: Mexico's Raul Jimenez (22) celebrates with team mates
Photographs: Edgard Garrido/Reuters