SAO PAULO: Argentina beat Bolivia 2-1 on Tuesday in the second round of South American World Cup qualifiers the second consecutive victory for Lionel Messi’s team and its first in the altitude of La Paz since 2005.
Marcelo Martins opened the scoring for the hosts with an easy header in the 24th minute, raising the specter of another bad Argentina performance 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) above sea level in the Bolivian capital.
But in first-half stoppage time, Bolivia defender Jos Carrasco failed in a clearance only a meter away from the goal line. The ball accidentally hit the right leg of Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez and went into the net.
The goal made Martinez the first Argentina player other than Messi to score in a World Cup qualifier since a 3-0 home win against Colombia in 2016. Seven matches took place in between.
Just when the draw seemed to be good enough for Argentina, whose players were clearly taking their time to catch their breath, Bolivia made another costly defensive mistake in the 79th minute.
Messi found Martinez on the edge of the box. The striker calmly assisted unmarked Joaquin Correa, who beat goalkeeper Carlos Lampe with a left-footed shot.
We managed to run, to press them, Martinez said after the match. It is a team that shows a lot of heart, but a lot of brains too.”
Bolivia’s national team is in the middle of a political fight between clubs and the local soccer body. Many of its main players are sitting out World Cup qualifiers.
Also on Tuesday, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay can equal Argentina’s six points if they beat Peru, Chile and Peru, respectively.
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