Lionel Messi helped Argentina put last week’s loss to Brazil behind them with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Colombia in their World Cup qualifier match.
The Ballon D’Or winner set the tone for the game with a free kick, curled home magisterially off the bar. He then went on to assist with two more goals were laid sumptuously on a plate for his teammates. With a delightful cross, the Barca star took centre-back Davison Sanchez out of the game and gave Lucas Pratto the chance to head home La Albiceleste’s second.
And towards the end of the match, Messi robbed Jeison Murillo with a burst of acceleration and crossed for Angel Di Maria to complete the scoreline.
The victory was one of great importance against a dangerous opponent, who previously was above them by two points in the CONMEBOL table, and also lifting Messi’s team, recovering from two successive defeats, into fifth.
It was a necessary one as well, especially given that rivals Ecuador and Chile, both ahead of Argentina, won their respective matches. Defeat would have left the Argentines worryingly off pace, but victory meant that they are now just one point behind both rivals.
Meanwhile, Alexis Sanchez led Chile to a crucial 3-1 home victory over Uruguay on his return from a hamstring injury suffered while on international duty.
Playing with his thigh heavily strapped, the Arsenal striker scored twice in the space of 16 second-half minutes before being taken off to a standing ovation on 84 minutes.
Edinson Cavani had put Uruguay in front after 14 minutes before the hosts hit back just before the half-time break through Eduardo Vargas’ header.
Sanchez then scored for the Copa America champions from the edge of the box on the hour mark before adding a second soon after – his 36th international goal – to leave him just one shy of Marcelo Salas’ all-time record for Chile.
Uruguay had a chance to pull one back and set up a grandstand finish, but Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo foiled Luis Suarez from the spot late on.