Messi scores but Chile hold Argentina in WC qualifier

Afp, Santiago Del Estero

5 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Messi scores but Chile hold Argentina in WC qualifier

Argentina forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a penalty against Chile during their South American qualification match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades Stadium in Santiago del Estero on Thursday. —AFP PHOTO

Lionel Messi scored a penalty but Argentina missed out on the chance to take over top spot of South American World Cup qualifying from rivals Brazil after a 1-1 draw with Chile on Thursday.

Messi also clipped the woodwork and forced three impressive saves out of Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo but Alexis Sanchez earned the dogged visitors a point in Santiago del Estero.

The draw leaves Argentina a point behind Brazil, the only remaining side with a perfect qualifying record, who host Ecuador on Friday.

Chile are down in sixth, still two points off the qualification places having won only one of their five matches so far.

Argentina captain Messi said he was happy with the result, despite failing to win. Argentina were on top, though, and the hosts were awarded a penalty following a VAR check when Guillermo Maripan recklessly brought down Lautaro Martinez in the box.

Messi casually rolled the ball low to the left of former Barcelona and Manchester City keeper Bravo, who dived the wrong way on 24 minutes.

The lead lasted only 12 minutes before Inter Milan forward Sanchez tapped home into an empty net from four yards out after a stretching Gary Medel turned Charles Aranguiz's freekick back across goal.

"I was missing a goal against Argentina, I'd never scored one before so I'm very happy," Sanchez said after the game.

In first half injury time Messi came close to restoring Argentina's advantage with a freekick from 20 yards that was heading for the top scorner until Bravo leaped to tip the ball away one handed.

The hosts continued to carve out the better opportunities in the second period but Bravo saved comfortably from Angel Di Maria and Martinez.

At the other end, Sanchez fired over the bar with a long-range free-kick.

His Inter teammate Martinez was a livewire in the box and lashed a shot wide before coming inches from turning in a devilish cross into the danger zone.

Ten minutes from time, from an identical position to his first half free-kick, Messi went even closer to scoring but rattled the corner of bar and post with Bravo beaten. On Tuesday Argentina travel to Colombia while Chile host Bolivia.

Without the suspended Edinson Cavani, whose partner gave birth to his fourth child earlier in the day, Uruguay labored to a 0-0 draw with Paraguay that kept the two sides locked on seven points and battling for the final automatic qualification spot.

Marcelo Moreno scored a brace as Bolivia climbed off the bottom of the table with a 3-1 win over Venezuela in La Paz.