Messi stars in Argentina victory
A superb performance by Lionel Messi helped Argentina beat Uruguay to consolidate their place at the top of the South American World Cup Qualifiers.
The Barcelona star scored twice and Sergio Aguero netted the other, with all three coming in the second half, to complete a convincing win for the Albicelestes, who lead with 17 points from eight games, one ahead Colombia and Ecuador.
Alejandro Sabella's men started brightly, controlling the ball and using Messi as playmaker. But the only real danger came from a cross-shot by Angel Di Maria and another effort by Fernando Gago, both of which went wide.
Uruguay sought only to defend, with their rare attacks limited to counters.
Everything was quiet until the 28th-minute, when Messi avoided Walter Gargano, Martin Caceres and Edinson Cavani, but his shot hit in the crossbar. And shortly after Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera produced a great save to keep out a free-kick from the Barcelona star.
Chances were limited at the start of the second half as Uruguay came out with increased intensity and aggression, Messi suffering some dangerous fouls and Diego Lugano picking up a booking for a tough challenge on keeper Sergio Romero. But it did nothing to stop Messi.
In the 65th minute, he started an attack with a ball to the left side. Di Maria avoided a defender and centred the ball for Messi, who open the scoring with a precise touch.
Ten minutes later the same duo were at the heart of Argentina's second, Messi finding Di Maria, who sent the ball in for Aguero simply to poke the ball into the net.
And the cherry on the cake arrived 10 minutes before the end, when Messi made it 3-0 with a precise free-kick.
Messi said: "I'm very happy for all these people in Mendoza. We overcame very hard rivals and we did it in a clear way.
"We mustn't forget that Uruguay are the last Copa America champions, therefore this was a big triumph. The squad is stronger every day and we are playing with confidence. Now, if we can beat Chile next Tuesday we will be very close to the next World Cup."
Aguero praised Messi, saying: "There are no more words for him. He is unique. I finished the game in perfect condition and I'm ready to repeat this performance against Chile."
On Tuesday, Argentina travel to Santiago to face Chile - who were defeated by Ecuador 3-1 courtesy of a Felipe Caicedo brace - while Uruguay visit Bolivia in La Paz.
Bolivia will head into that contest with some confidence after securing a 1-1 draw with Peru. Juan Carlos Marino had the visitors off to the perfect start on 21 minutes before Alejandro Chumacero netted the equaliser for Bolivia.
In Friday evening's other game, Colombia scored a 2-0 home win over Paraguay. Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao netted both goals for Colombia in the second half as he continued his fine run of form for both club and country.