Brazil were dominant as they defeated Argentina by 3-0 in their first game back at the Mineirao Stadium since falling 7-1 to Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup.
Given their recent history in the stadium, the hosts started tentatively in their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying match against their greatest South American rival, with Fernandinho shown an early yellow card for a foul on Lionel Messi.
Argentina dominated the early exchanges, with Lucas Biglia forcing a fine stretching save from Alisson off a half-volley from outside of the box on 23 minutes.
However, Brazil soon got on the scoreboard through Philippe Coutinho, who had the Mineirao crowd out of their seats with a stunning strike from outside of the box in the 25th minute. The in-form Liverpool midfielder received a ball on the left flank, cut inside onto his right foot and blasted his shot past a helpless Sergio Romero to give Brazil a 1-0 lead.
It would take another 20 minutes, but the hosts added their second just before the half to earn themselves a comfortable position against the 2014 World Cup runners-up.
This time, it was Neymar Jr who inflicted the damage. The Barcelona star received a slide-rule pass behind the defence from Gabriel Jesus and calmly slotted into Romero’s far corner. The goal was Neymar’s 50th for his country in just 74 appearances for his country in young career.
Paulinho should have made it 3-0 after the break, but he was off target despite rounding Romero, and was easily saved off the line by a back-tracking Javier Mascherano.
But the former Tottenham midfielder would grab Brazil’s third just moments later, pouncing onto Renato Augusto’s sliding pull back and firing hard into the net from the middle of the box.
The victory keeps Brazil – energized since new boss Tite’s arrival – on top of the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying table with 24 points from 11 matches. Meanwhile, Argentina languishes in sixth place – one = out of a qualifying spot – with 16.