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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Mar 23, 2013

Messi and Higuain keep Argentina top

Argentina brushed aside Venezuela 3-0 to remain top of the CONMEBOL standings in World Cup qualification.

Two goals from Gonzalo Higuain plus a Lionel Messi penalty handed Argentina a convincing win in Buenos Aires on Friday night. Real Madrid striker Higuain scored in either half, with Barcelona forward Messi converting from the spot a minute before the interval.

Argentina controlled the tempo from the outset, looking to find gaps in the visitors' defence at every opportunity. They went close to breaking the deadlock several times only to be denied by Venezuela goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez but, just before the half-hour mark, Primera Division rivals Messi and Higuain linked up to give their country the lead.

Messi supplied the pass which put Higuain through one on one with Hernandez, and the Madrid man made no mistake with a neat cross-shot past Hernandez.

The gulf in quality between the teams became even more evident thereafter and Argentina duly doubled their lead in the 44th minute, Messi despatching the penalty after Venezuela defender Gabriel Cichero had handled the ball inside his area.

Messi was again the provider when Higuain made it 3-0 after 58 minutes, supplying the perfect pass for his colleague to slot home.

Colombia enjoyed a convincing 5-0 rout of Bolivia to remain hot on Argentina's heels. The win kept Jose Pekerman's second-placed side within four points of Argentina, who have played one game more than the Colombians.

The Cafeteros controlled the match from the first whistle but had to wait until the 20th minute to open the scoring, Macnelly Torres tapping home from Guillermo Cuadrado's cross.

The floodgates opened after the interval in Barranquilla. Carlos Valdes took advantage of a kind rebound following a corner to double his team's lead four minutes into the second half, with Teifilo Gutierrez swiftly adding a third on the counter-attack.

The misery was not over for Xabier Azkagorta's side, though. Four minutes from time, Radamel Falcao latched onto Pablo Armero's pass and notched a fourth goal and then, deep into stoppage time, substitute Armero made no mistake when one on one with goalkeeper Sergio Galarza.

In Montevideo, fourth-placed Uruguay lost ground in the qualification race as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Paraguay.

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez looked to have won it for Uruguay when he broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute with a superb volley, but four minutes later Edgar Benitez capitalised on a Diego Lugano error to restore parity.

Finally, man of the match Jefferson Farfan grabbed the game's only goal three minutes from the end to earn Peru a 1-0 triumph over Chile in Lima.

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