Argentina maintained its unbeaten start to their World Cup qualifying campaign. Also, they have cruised to a 3-1 victory at 10-man Venezuela on Thursday night.
But Brazil continued their perfect start to qualifying with a seventh win out of seven. Everton Ribeiro scored the only goal in a 1-0 away victory over Chile.
In his first match for his country since moving to Paris Saint-Germain, Lionel Messi struggled to stamp his authority on the match in Caracas, but it mattered little.
Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring in the first-half injury time after. Also, Venezuela had been reduced to 10 men by Luis Adrian Martinez’s red card. He has done a reckless challenge on Messi.
Argentina did not look impressive but the extra man told in the final quarter. That time substitutes Joaquin Correa and Angel Correa broke through.
Venezuela did not go home empty-handed. Yeferson Soteldo scored a cheeky “Panenka” penalty deep into injury time at the end of the game.
Argentina travels to Brazil on Sunday in a repeat of July’s Copa America final, in which they won 1-0 to end a 28-year wait for a major trophy. This game will be mouth-watering to watch.
“It will be a great, important match after the final we played,” said Lautaro Martinez.
“We have to rest and then approach the match like we did the Copa America final.”
RED CARD CHANGES GAME for Argentina
Argentina had been marginally the better side early on. They had hit the bar through Rodrigo de Paul’s long-range strike in 13 minutes.
But the match turned decisively in the visitors’ favor on the half-hour as Luis Adrian Martine. He was an early substitute and had been on the field for less than five minutes, lunged in rashly on Messi.
The referee brandished a yellow card. After watching a VAR review that was upgraded to a straight red card for the ugly studs-up challenge.
The match turned into attack versus defense and Argentina secured the crucial breakthrough in first-half injury time.
As the pressure mounted, Giovani Lo Celso slipped in a perfectly timed pass for Lautaro Martinez to slot into the bottom corner.
Argentina labored after the break against a packed defense. Also, substitute Joaquin Correa finally put the match to bed 20 minutes from time with a fierce low strike from just inside the area after good work from Messi and Lautaro Martinez.
Three minutes later, Lautaro Martinez’s snapshot was stopped by Venezuela goalkeeper, Walker Martinez, but Angel Correa mopped up the rebound.
Messi was given a great chance to get his name on the scoresheet five minutes from time but shot too close to Martinez.
Substitute Alejandro Gomez then stood on Soteldo’s foot in the penalty area, allowing the diminutive playmaker to salvage some Venezuelan pride from the spot.