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Argentina 3-0 Venezuela: Messi scores as Albiceleste extend unbeaten run
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Ante Jukic
Stats Perform
Argentina celebrate a goal against Venezuela.
Argentina celebrate a goal against Venezuela.

Argentina remain undefeated in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification, after they defeated Venezuela 3-0 on Friday.

In the Albiceleste's first game at La Bombonera since the passing of Diego Maradona, it was a particularly emotional atmosphere and the already-qualified home side made it 11 wins from 16 qualifiers.

The raucous home support belied the largely lacklustre performance on the pitch, however, with Nicolas Gonzalez's goal giving them breathing room. Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi netted in the final quarter of an hour to seal the win.

The match's complexion was dominated by Argentine possession which did not exactly translate to many chances of substance.

In the opening 30 minutes, the Albiceleste managed three shots for a cumulative xG of 0.07 despite 71 per cent possession.

Yet the game soon opened up in transition, and Argentina could finally attack space that otherwise wasn't presented. From the ensuing chaos, Alexis Mac Allister quickly won back possession and played in Rodrigo De Paul, who then provided the assist across goal for Gonzalez.

Venezuela had an opportunity to equalise in the 39th minute through Josef Martinez with Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani scrambling, but he put his close-range shot off target from Salomon Rondon's ball.

Martinez again had an opportunity to equalise in the 54th minute, with a free header from close range but missed.

Argentina were able to effectively kill the game off late in the second half through substitute Di Maria, chipping Wuilker Farinez after De Paul's ball over the top.

Messi then added a third three minutes later in the 82nd minute with a relative mis-hit from Di Maria's assist.

Over-reliant on Messi?

Despite his individual quality, Argentina's reliance on Lionel Messi to incorporate the collective when the game slows down is still distinctly apparent. De Paul's assist for Di Maria belies the rigidity he and Leandro Paredes brought in midfield against Vinotinto. There's a sense Argentina's ceiling in Qatar could be defined by whether they have the ball or not.

The scale of Pekerman's task

After taking over as Venezuela head coach in November, Jose Pekerman has won one in three games, but their opening win over Bolivia has been overshadowed by the nature of losses against Uruguay and Argentina.

What's next?

For their final games of the qualification phase, Argentina travel to face Ecuador, while Venezuela host Colombia.


ArgentinaVenezuelaLionel Messi
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