Messi rested but Argentina still too good for Chile in World Cup qualifier

Goals from Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez gave Argentina a 2-1 win in Chile on Thursday in their World Cup qualifier as the visitor collected the three points without Lionel Messi.

Argentina's Papu Gomez and teammates celebrate after the match.   -  REUTERS

Goals from Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez gave Argentina a 2-1 win in Chile on Thursday in their World Cup qualifier as the visitor collected the three points without Lionel Messi.

Argentina opted to rest Messi after his COVID-19 infection but his Paris Saint Germain teammate Di Maria stepped up to give the visitor the lead with a trademark curling shot from outside the box after 10 minutes.

Chile’s English-born striker Ben Brereton equalised just over 10 minutes later when he sent a fine looping header over goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

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Argentina then took advantage of an injury to Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to seal the win 11 minutes before halftime.

Bravo was preparing to be substituted when Rodrigo de Paul fired in a fierce drive from 30 metres, and with the goalkeeper only able to parry the shot, Lautaro Martinez followed up to slot home the rebound.

The result was a huge blow to Chile's hopes of qualifying for Qatar. It is seventh, on 16 points, in the 10-team South American qualifying group with only three matches to play.

The top four qualify automatically and the fifth-placed team goes into a playoff with a side from the Asian confederation.

Leader Brazil and second-placed Argentina have already qualified and Ecuador, which is third with 24 points, is almost certain to join them.

USA beats El Salvador

The United States scraped a 1-0 win over El Salvador in its World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday as freezing temperatures tested both teams.

U.S. defender Antonee Robinson broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute, driving the ball home from close range after forward Jesus Ferreira headed to him. Robinson then launched a celebratory backflip to the delight of a roaring home crowd.

El Salvador, second bottom of the eight-team group, made a flurry of substitutions late in the second half but was unable to wrest back the momentum amid temperatures hovering around 31 degrees Fahrenheit (-0.56°C).

It was not the dominant performance the United States had hoped for ahead of Sunday's match against Canada in Hamilton after Jamaica held them to a draw in their previous qualifier.

United States tops the standings on 18 points, a point ahead of Mexico, which defeated Jamaica 2-1. Canada, on 16 points, is playing Honduras on Thursday.

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