Argentina held 1-1; Bolivia official arrested
Lionel Messi had a goal disallowed and another denied as Argentina was held to a 1-1 draw in South American World Cup qualifying
Sao Paulo: Lionel Messi had a goal disallowed and another denied as Argentina was held to a 1-1 draw in South American World Cup qualifying.
The draw at La Bombonera stadium puts Argentina on the top of the standings with seven points from three matches, but Brazil — on six — could move ahead with a home win over 9th-place Venezuela on Friday. Paraguay is in 4th position with five points. Argentina's fourth match in qualifying will be on Tuesday, when Paraguay hosts Bolivia and Ecuador is at home to Colombia.
In Thursday's opening match, 10th-place Bolivia conceded a late penalty to lose 3-2 at home to Ecuador. The Ecuadorians are now in 3rd place with six points in three games.
The top four teams will automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The fifth-place team will go into an inter-continental playoff.
Paraguay once more gave Argentina trouble, opening the scoring in the 21st minute via Angel Romero's penalty. Argentina equalised in the 41st after Giovani Lo Celso took a corner and found Nicolas Gonzalez free in the box to head it home.
Messi appeared to give Argentina a lead in the 57th minute, but a video reviewed decision by Brazilian referee Raphael Claus found a foul for Paraguay 27 seconds earlier when the ball was still in Argentina's half.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni had to be creative for the match. Messi started with pain in his left ankle, and defender Nicolas Tagliafico had to be replaced by González, who usually plays as a striker at Stuttgart.
Scaloni also lost midfielder Exequiel Palacios to injury after only 30 minutes, but his replacement Lo Celso ended as one of the best on the pitch — though not enough to secure Argentina a home victory.
Ángel Di Maria, who was initially expected to start, entered in the second half but was unable to produce a goal for Argentina's much-needed home win.
Ecuador's win in La Paz was decided in the final minutes. But a significant moment for Bolivia occurred earlier, off the pitch at Hernando Siles stadium, when investigators arrested the interim president of the country's soccer federation, Marcos Rodriguez.