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Sep 12, 2012

Higuain goal salvages draw for Argentina

Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 37th minute to help Argentina scratch out a 1-1 draw with Peru on Tuesday and stay on top of the standings in South American World Cup qualifying.

Carlos Zamorano scored in the 22nd minute for Peru, which could have had at least one more goal, but Argentina keeper Sergio Romero stopped Claudio Pizarro on a penalty in the 3rd minute. Peru also hit a post and was always more threatening against Argentina's frail defense.

The draw gave Argentina 14 points in seven matches, followed by Ecuador and Colombia with 13, Chile and Uruguay with 12 and Peru on 7.

Peru matched Argentina in the first half, with the attacking of Jefferson Farfan and Advincula troubling Argentina's nervous defense. Lionel Messi was held in check and Peru was more aggressive, getting away with several rough tackles.

"We knew it was going to be like this,'' Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano said. "This is a tough place to play and the pitch wasn't that good. Everyone wants to beat Argentina.''

In other South American qualifiers, Radamel Falcao put in a man of the match display as Colombia ralled from a goal down to claim a surprise 3-1 win at Chile.

In an encounter that saw both sides reduced to 10 men, Atletico Madrid striker Falcao scored one and set up another as Colombia remained in second place in the qualification table.

Despite midfielder Gary Medel being sent off in the 34th minute for hitting Luis Perea, Chile took a half-time lead through Matias Fernandez after a blunder from the Colombian defense.

In the 41st minute, the Colombian players stopped running as they expected referee Victor Carrillo to blow a foul on Edwin Valencia.

They left Matias Fernandez unmarked and the Chilean forward's strike from outside the box beat Colombia keeper David Ospina.

However, James Rodriguez levelled just before the hour mark with a free-kick, while Aldo Ramirez teed up Falcao, who put Colombia ahead in the 73rd minute at the Estadio Monumental.

Two minutes later, Teofilo Gutierrez linked up with Falcao before finishing with aplomb although Colombia was also then reduced to 10 men when defender Abel Aguilar was sent off for a second bookable offence with six minutes remaining.

"This is a magnificent win for us. We were sure it was going to happen," Falcao told reporters in Santiago. "This is the result of the maturity of a team who did not give up after Chile's goal."

Former Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo put Ecuador ahead with a seventh minute penalty before Edinson Cavani gave the Uruguayans a share of the spoils in the 66th minute.

However, the hosts were a perhaps a touch fortunate after keeper Fernando Muslera appeared to foul Cristian Benitez in the area.

Referee Carlos Amarilla refused to award a penalty and Ecuador then saw Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia sent off in injury-time.

Salomon Rondon's double gave Venezuela a shock 2-0 victory at Paraguay.

Rondon struck in either half as Venezuela moved into sixth in the table on 11 points, just one below Chile, who occupy the last automatic qualifying position at the moment.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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