A superb performance by Lionel Messi helped Argentina beat Uruguay to consolidate their place at the top of the South American World Cup Qualifiers. Messi took his tally in the qualifiers to six with a brilliant free kick as Argentina continued their progression after a wobbly start where they were defeated in Venezuela and held to a draw at home to Bolivia.
Messi scored two goals and Sergio Aguero added another to overpower Uruguay 3-0, keeping the Argentines in first place in the qualifying standings for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Messi, who has largely failed to match his translate his outstanding Barcelona form to the national team, has shone ever since Alejandro Sabella was hired a year ago as coach, replacing Sergio Batista who in turn replaced Diego Maradona.
"We had so much of the ball," Messi said. "The important thing is we won. We played a great game and we deserved the three points. They (Uruguay) only wanted to defend. They were just looking for something on the counterattack. Our team is getting stronger each time we play."' Added midfielder Javier Mascherano: "That's another three points, but in this qualification you can lose a couple of games and fall out of contention."
Messi scored in the 66th and added another with a free kick in the 80th while Aguero scored in the 75th at Malvinas Argentinas stadium in Mendoza, Argentina. Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo and Aguero all had good chances before Messi opened the scoring. The Barcelona forward played a one-two with Di Maria, then slid to ground while chipping the shot behind keeper Fernando Muslera.
Messi finished things off on a 25-meter (yard) free kick that hugged the ground and went in just inside the post. "That was a great game from these guys," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said. "We played with good possession and a lot of patience." (Photo under: Mascherano and Messi)
Not long after his goal, Messi forced a huge save out of Fernando Muslera. His 15-minute stretch from the 65th to the 80th minute was as dominant a stretch of football as one player can possibly have in a match. An Argentina manager has finally surrounded him with the right pieces, and the Albiceleste are clearly the best team in CONMEBOL qualifying at the moment.
"We have very good players who had an excellent match, they played like a team," Sabella told reporters, adding there are no adequate words to describe Messi. "The Spanish Royal Academy (which governs the language) must search for a new adjective for Messi," he said.
Messi created a good chance for himself with a dribbling run past several defenders towards the end of the first half in Mendoza but his final, left-footed shot went over the top and hit the far stanchion. He was also close with a free kick from the left which would have gone in if Muslera had not punched the ball over. Messi's first goal came during a spell of total Argentine dominance but soon after there was a scare for Argentina with defender Pablo Zabaleta clearing off the line.
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