Messi carries Argentina to first place
Lionel Messi scored two second-half goals and Sergio Aguero added another in the half to lead Argentina to a 3-0 home win over Uruguay on Friday, keeping the Argentines atop the South American World Cup qualifying standings.
Messi scored in the 66th and added another with a free kick in the 80th while Aguero scored in the 75th.
Argentina had 60 percent of possession in the match but had trouble finishing until Messi broke through at Malvinas Argentinas stadium.
The result improved Argentina to 17 points in eight matches. Colombia and Ecuador, which both picked up victories on Friday, improved to 16 points. Uruguay and Chile have 12. The top four teams qualify for the World Cup while the fifth-placed team goes into a further playoff.
"That's another three points, but in this qualification you can lose a couple of games and fall out of contention,'' Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano said.
Angel Di Maria, Marcos Rojo and Aguero all had good chances before Messi opened the scoring. The Barcelona forward played a one-two with Di Maria, then slid to ground while chipping the shot behind keeper Fernando Muslera.
Messi finished things off on a 25-meter (yard) free kick that hugged the ground and went in just inside the post.
"That was a great game from these guys,'' Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said. "We played with good possession and a lot of patience.''
"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."
Uruguay was hardly a factor, looking nothing like the powerful team that won the Copa America last year and finished fourth in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.