Lionel Messi inspires Argentina to 3-0 win over Uruguay

Lionel Messi guided Argentina past a tough Uruguay side in the final half hour with two brilliant goals in a 3-0 win on Friday that keeps them top of South America's World Cup qualifiers.

Lionel Messi inspires Argentina to 3-0 win over Uruguay

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Lionel Messi guided Argentina past Uruguay in the final half hour with two brilliant goals in a 3-0 win that put them top of World Cup qualification.

Argentina lead the nine-nation South American group with 17 points from eight matches at the halfway stage. Colombia and Ecuador are one point behind, Uruguay and Chile five behind.

Messi created and finished his first goal in the 66th minute, playing the ball to Angel Di Maria and racing through to tap the rebound past Fernando Muslera.

Argentina went two up nine minutes later with another move on the left, Messi again feeding Di Maria who returned the ball with his first touch where Sergio Aguero touched it into the net.

The third goal in the 80th minute came from a cheeky free kick by Messi, who deceived the Uruguay wall by sliding the ball underneath them and inside the base of the near post when they jumped expecting a shot to one of the upper corners.

It was sweet revenge for Messi, who has now scored 12 goals in his last seven internationals, and Argentina after they were eliminated by Uruguay on penalties in the 2011 Copa America and which the 2010 World Cup semi-finalists went on to win.

"Great match by the players," Argentina's coach Alejandro Sabella told reporters pitchside. "Against an experienced team who for good reason finished fourth at the (2010) World Cup."

Argentina enjoyed far more possession and territory than Uruguay in the first half but could not find a way through a well organised defence and when they did, they were caught offside.

Uruguay were a latent threat on the counter-attack with forwards of the calibre of Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan.

Messi created a good chance for himself with a dribbling run past several defenders towards the end of the first half in Mendoza but his final, left-footed shot went over the top and hit the far stanchion.

He was also close with a free kick from the left which would have gone in if Muslera had not punched the ball over.

There was fighting among players from both sides early in the second half when Uruguay captain Diego Lugano chased a loose ball with Sergio Romero and stamped on the Argentina goalkeeper's hand as he went for it, earning a booking.

Messi's first goal came during a spell of total Argentine dominance but soon after there was a scare for Argentina with defender Pablo Zabaleta clearing off the line.

It was an expensive outing for the Uruguayans with Lugano, who came off injured, and fellow central defender Diego Godin suspended for Tuesday's visit to Bolivia after both were booked.

Red-hot striker Radamel Falcao scored two brilliant goals to give Colombia a 2-0 win over Paraguay in their World Cup qualifier in steamy Barranquilla on Friday.

Colombia, who have won their last three qualifiers, went top of the South American group briefly until Argentina's win.

The Colombians have 16 points from eight matches, the same as Ecuador who beat Chile 3-1 at home, while Argentina have 14 from seven.

Falcao put Colombia ahead seven minutes into the second half when he took a through ball from Macnelly Torres, turned defender Paulo Da Silva and curled a left-footed shot inside the corner of Diego Barreto's goal.

The Colombians, patient against a defensive Paraguay in a goalless first half, wore down their opponents in the second after two substitutions by Argentine coach Jose Pekerman.

Pekerman moved James Rodriguez from the flank into a central playmaking role and sent on lanky, fast-running midfielder Juan Cuadrado for Aldo Ramirez.

Passage through the midfield became faster and Paraguay were put on the back foot, surviving a string of Colombian chances.

Defender Ivan Piris cleared a Falcao lob off the line, Colombias left back Pablo Armero hit the post and striker Teofilo Gutierrez had goal disallowed for offside.

Paraguay, bottom of the nine-nation South American group, missed their best chance midway through the second half when Marcelo Estigarribia shot just wide after a good counter-attack down the right by substitute Luis Caballero.

Falcao rounded off a fine victory with his fifth goal in three qualifiers when he controlled a cross from substitute Elkin Soto on his right foot, sent Barreto the wrong way and lobbed the ball home with his left in the final minute.

"Let's enjoy this victory but ...there's still a long way to go in the qualifiers and we haven't achieved anything yet," Falcao told reporters.

Striker Felipe Caicedo scored twice as Ecuador extended their perfect home record with a fifth World Cup qualifying win against a Chile side who had two players sent off on Friday.

The win put Ecuador level with Colombia, although behind on goal difference, in the nine-nation South American group with 16 points from eight matches.

Chile went in front with an own goal by Ecuador defender Juan Carlos Paredes when he attempted to cut out a cross from Mauricio Isla in the 25th minute.

It was a shock to the Ecuadoreans, more used to the rarefied air at the Atahualpa stadium in Quito nearly 3,000 metres above sea level, who had dominated the early exchanges.

However, Caicedo equalised eight minutes later and put Ecuador in front in the 55th minute when his penalty was parried by Miguel Pinto but the striker netted the rebound.

Chile defender Pablo Contreras was sent off for the foul on Renato Ibarra that resulted in the penalty and midfielder Arturo Vidal was also shown the red card near the end for elbowing an opponent.

Midfielder Segundo Castillo scored Ecuador's third goal with a header three minutes into added time.

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