Argentina minus Lionel Messi slump to shock defeat in Bolivia
Juan Arce and Marcelo Moreno scored either side of half-time as Argentina without Lionel Messi slumped to a 2-0 defeat in Bolivia.
Edgardo Bauza’s side are third in the South American qualifying section after defeat in the world's highest capital, with their place at the finals in Russia remaining very much in the balance after a meek display.
Argentina had not won at the Estadio Hernando Siles in the past 12 years prior to this meeting, and to make matters worse, they were without captain Messi, who had been banned from their next four competitive internationals, including Tuesday's clash, for swearing at a match official.
he decision was announced less than six hours before kick-off of the match in La Paz and means that the five-times world player of the year will play in only one of Argentina's remaining five World Cup qualifiers.
In his absence, La Albiceleste could not get going, created very little, and were comfortable outplayed by a team second bottom of the CONMEBOL standings. Arce's well-taken header and Moreno's emphatic finish were enough for the men in green to secure all three points.
It remains to be seen just how much of an effect this defeat will have on Argentina. One thing's for sure, their chances of missing a first World Cup since 1970 got a whole lot more realistic.
Would Messi have even made a difference? We are used to see superhuman efforts from Lionel Messi over the years, but should he have taken to the field in La Paz, would his team-mates have been able to rouse more of a performance than they did muster so high above sea level? There is only so much you can blame on conditions, of course, but they clearly took their toll on the visitors. There was still enough Argentina talent on the pitch to cause more problems than they did.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Pablo Escobar. Not quite as menacing as his namesake, Escobar ran Argentina ragged at times, and defied his 38 years to put in a stellar showing in La Paz. His cross for the opening goal was perfect, but his tireless running ensured he was never too far from the action.
Bolivia: Lampe 7, Chumacero 6, Arce 8, Bejarano 6, Moreno 8, Castro 7, Raldes 6, Wayar 6, Flores 6, Escobar 8, Zentreno.. Subs: Justiniano 6.
4' - CHANCE! Great opportunity for the veteran Pablo Escobar at the back post, but his control lets him down at the last. Argentina cut open far too easily.
17' - SAVE! Sergio Romero is forced into a smart save to deny Raul Castro from distance. The ball bounced up off the turf, making the stop more difficult.
29' - SAVE! Great chance for Di Maria as he is clean through, takes it a little wide, elects to try to loft the ball over Lampe, but the Bolivian stopper does well to stick out a hand and block.
31' - GOAL! Bolivia 1-0 Argentina. Huge, huge goal in this CONMEBOL group. Incredible. Arce gets the goal, but the cross from Escobar was superb. All Arce had to do was to get any kind of contact onto the long ball to guide the header past Romero using the pace of the supply. Curtains for La Albiceleste?
52' - GOOOOOOOOOAAAALLLLL: Bolivia 2-0 Argentina. Martins smashes the ball home to inflict more damage on the visitors. The Argentina defence simply couldn't keep up with Arce, who got to the byline, pulled the ball back for an unmarked Moreno, who smashed it into the roof of the net
67' - COULD BE THREE! Moreno could and maybe should have made it three, but his first effort is blocked, and he cannot react quickly enough as the ball ricochets back to him, and Romero can gather. Great work from Escobar to pull the ball back.
71' - SAVE! Great swivel and shot on the edge of the box from Caruzzo brings out the best in Lampe, who gets two strong hands to it to beat the ball away.
Argentina have conceded at least two goals in four consecutive away games for the first time in WC Qualifiers history
Pablo Escobar has had a hand in four of Bolivia's last seven goals in WC Qualifiers: Three goals, one assist