AFP

Lionel Messi spot on as Argentina edge past Chile in crucial World Cup qualifier

Messi spot on as Argentina edge past Chile in crucial World Cup qualifier
By Eurosport

23/03/2017 at 22:06Updated 24/03/2017 at 01:49

CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier, Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires - Argentina 1 (Lionel Messi 16') Chile 0

Lionel Messi's first-half penalty ensured Argentina overcame Chile 1-0 in a crucial World Cup qualifier in Buenos Aires.

Just 269 days after missing a penalty in the 2016 Copa America final shootout - which Chile went on to win 4-2 after a 0-0 draw - Messi got his revenge with the winning goal on Thursday night, which lifts Argentina up to third in the standings.

Chile meanwhile move down to sixth - only the top four are guaranteed qualification for Russia, while fifth will face a play-off against a side from Oceania.

TALKING POINT

Messi the saviour: The Copa America final last year was the match that caused Messi to retire. After three major final losses it all got too much for him. And a missed penalty only rubbed salt into the wounds. That was then.

And now, it's not a full redemption for Messi - it's simply one qualifying match and there are five still to go - but dispatching the spot-kick at the Estadio Monumental will go some way to helping the Barcelona forward get over the heartache. Russia 2018 will be very much on his mind.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Lionel Messi: Read above. Far from a vintage Messi performance, but that match-winning moment took some nerve... (And it was a rather dull affair)

SANCHEZ WATCH

Just five days after Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had described Alexis Sanchez's ankle as being in a terrible state, the Chilean was named in the starting line-up for his country.

And the forward was the rare bright spark for Chile on a poor pitch which did little to help in attack. Sanchez hit the bar from a free-kick in the second half which could have changed the story of the game, while a few jinking runs were ended with force by the Argentine defence. A solid display. No sign of an ankle problem here...

PLAYER RATINGS

Argentina: Romero 6; Mercado 6, Otamendi 7, Rojo 6, Mas 6; Mascherano 7, Biglia 6; Di Maria 6, Messi 7, Aguero 6, Higuain 5. Subs: Musacchio 6, Banega 6, Roncaglia N/A.

Chile: Bravo; 6 Isla 6, Medel 6, Jara 5, Beausejour 5; Silva 6, Aránguiz 5, Hernández 6; Fuenzalida 5, Vargas 6, Alexis 7. Subs: Castillo 6, Valdivia 6, Paredes N/A.

KEY MOMENTS

7 - CHILE GOAL RULED OUT! And it's a great decision from the linesman... Sanchez's brilliant cross is met by Aranguiz, whose header is saved by Romero and there is Fuenzalida to tap in the rebound. But he was offside by half a yard or so, and the offside flag rightly goes up.

16 - ARGENTINA 1-0 CHILE Messi scores from the penalty spot! Ice cool from the Barcelona forward, 269 days after missing in the Copa America final shootout against the same opposition.

44 - WHAT A CHANCE! How has Otamendi missed this? The defender gets it all wrong as he fires over from close-range. Poor from the Argentine and that's a real let-off for Chile just before the break.

64 - OFF THE BAR! You can't keep a quality side quiet for long, especially with players like Sanchez. Chile earn a free-kick just outside the area and Alexis' strike cannons off the crossbar with Romero rooted to the spot.

MATCH IN A TWEET

The defeaning cry of 'Messi' rings round the Estadio Monumental.

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