Lionel Messi stars as Argentina thrash Uruguay - in pictures

'We played a great match, I think we're improving a lot,' said Messi after World Cup qualifying victory

Lionel Messi opened the scoring as Argentina crushed Uruguay 3-0 in a lively World Cup qualifier in Buenos Aires.

Goals from Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez rounded off a successful Sunday night for Lionel Scaloni's team as they maintained their unbeaten start to the qualification campaign and narrowed the gap at the top of the South American table to six points behind Brazil, who drew 0-0 with Colombia.

"We played a great match, I think we're improving a lot," said Messi. "It was a tough match and we had to win it.

"Uruguay sit back and are dangerous. Once we scored the first goal we started to find spaces and many appeared."

The first half was a classic end-to-end thriller with both sides hitting the woodwork before Argentina opened the scoring.

Uruguay, who ended the day fourth in the 10-team table, were unbeaten in eight matches coming into Sunday’s match.

Luis Suarez looked lively early on and had three gilt-edged chances, all from the corner of the six-yard box.

Two, including an acrobatic volley, were parried by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, while his third effort came back off the near post.

For Argentina, Giovani Lo Celso skewed wide form 10 yards and Lautaro Martinez was narrowly unable to direct De Paul's cross on target.

Lo Celso then broke from deep and rounded goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, but his shot crashed down off the bar on to the goalline before bouncing away to safety.

Messi had a low shot deflected inches past the post and then broke the deadlock in bizarre fashion.

His chip into the box with the outside of his left boot was missed by Nicolas Gonzalez, whose presence seemed to deceive Muslera, the goalkeeper also missing the ball as it nestled in the bottom corner.

Muslera flirted with disaster moments later when he dribbled past Martinez in his area but Uruguay's nerves were rattled and Argentina doubled their lead with another scrappy goal.

Messi's pass was deflected into the path of Martinez whose miss-kick fell kindly for De Paul to stroke home.

Martinez secured on 62 minutes when left unmarked at the back post to tap in De Paul's cross.

Edinson Cavani came on in the second half for Uruguay but it was Argentina who had the better chances in an entertaining game that featured only 15 fouls and no cautions.

Messi came close to getting his second and substitute Angel Di Maria could have made it four on two occasions only to twice see Muslera parry his goalbound shots.

Meanwhile, the returning Neymar could not inspire Brazil to victory as hosts Colombia ended their perfect start to the qualification campaign in Barraquilla - and revealed next year's World Cup in Qatar could be his last.

The comments by the 29-year-old striker were made in the documentary “Neymar & The Line Of Kings,” produced by DAZN. An excerpt was published on the channel's Twitter feed on Sunday.

“Man, I think it will be my last World Cup,” Neymar said. “I am facing it like the last World Cup because I don't know whether I will be able to, mentally, to endure more soccer.

"I will do all I can to win it with my country and realise my dream, the biggest since my boyhood."

It was a good day for the bottom two teams in the group as Bolivia beat Peru 1-0 and Venezuela defeated Ecuador 2-1.

Updated: October 11th 2021, 6:02 AM
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