Argentina exact revenge on Chile, win for Colombia
March 25 2016 10:41 PM
Argentina striker Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring against Chile in their World Cup qualier on Thursday. (Reuters)

AFP/Santiago, Chile

Argentina avenged their Copa America defeat to Chile on Thursday, defeating the South American champions 2-1 to clinch a crucial victory in their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Goals from Paris Saint-Germain star Angel Di Maria and defender Gabriel Mercado secured a vital three points for Argentina after Chile took the lead through Felipe Gutierrez after only 11 minutes at the National Stadium.
Victory was sweet for Argentina, who were beaten on penalties by Chile at the same venue in the final of last year’s Copa America.
More importantly, the win got Argentina’s 2018 qualification bid firmly back on the road after a shaky start last year which saw them win only one of their opening four games.
Argentina, missing defensive midfield linchpin Javier Mascherano, appeared to be all at sea in the opening 20 minutes as Chile swept forward relentlessly, creating chances at will.  
The Chilean pressure got its reward after only 11 minutes, Gutierrez punishing non-existent Argentinian marking to meet a Gonzalo Jara corner with a powerful header to make it 1-0.  
Yet despite their shaky defence, Argentina were always able to offer an attacking threat with a stellar front three of Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi, and on 20 minutes were back on level terms.  
A superb through ball from Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori began the move which ended in a goal when Di Maria exchanged passes with Ever Banega and curled home a rare right-footed strike past Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.  
The goal settled Argentina who dominated the rest of the half.  
Five minutes after drawing level the visitors took the lead.  
Di Maria lofted a speculative pass into the Chilean penalty area and when Nicolas Otamendi’s knock-down found Messi, the Barcelona star held off the attentions of Chile defender Mauricio Isla to square for Mercado.  
The River Plate defender—last capped by former manager Diego Maradona six years ago—duly hooked home a volley from close range to make it 2-1.  
Chile upped the tempo after the break and created the better chances as they chased an equaliser, with Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez causing nervous moments in the Argentina defence with a 52nd minutE lob that drifted wide.
Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero was also regularly pressed into action, notably on 60 minutes when he parried away a rasping shot from Chile’s Fabian Orellana.  
With 20 minutes to go Chile again threatened when Jean Beausejour picked out Italy-based forward Mauricio Pinilla inside the area only for the Atalanta striker to hit the side netting.
Colombia sink Bolivia with injury-time strike
In La Paz, an injury-time goal from Edwin Cardona saw Colombia snatch a dramatic 3-2 win over Bolivia on Thursday to breathe life into their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Star-studded Colombia looked to have squandered a straightforward victory after Bolivia fought back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 heading into stoppage time at the Estadio Hernando Siles.
But just when the Bolivians were preparing to celebrate a well-earned point, Colombia swept forward.
Teenage winger Marlos Moreno broke down the left flank and picked out Mexico-based midfielder Cardona, who rifled a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
The victory was only Colombia’s second in five matches so far in South America’s marathon qualifying competition for places at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
The Colombians are now on seven points alongside Chile, Paraguay and Brazil, who all have matches on Thursday and Friday.
Colombia made a dream start after goals from Real Madrid star James Rodriguez and AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca gave them a 2-0 lead after 41 minutes.
However Bolivia were thrown a lifeline when Brazilian referee Wilton Pereira Sampaio harshly adjudged that Jeison Murillo had handballed inside the area early in the second half.
Juan Carlos Arce duly stepped up to blast the penalty into the top corner and Bolivia were back in the game.
It got better in the 62nd minute when Alejandro Chumacero lashed in the equaliser for 2-2.
Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina kept Colombia in the game with a string of saves as Bolivia pressed for a winner. But with time running down, Colombia counter-attacked and Cardona provided the final twist.

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