Argentina rallies to draw Bolivia 1-1 in qualifier

Argentina’s poor start in South American World Cup qualifying

continued on Friday with substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi scoring in the

60th minute to salvage a disappointing 1-1 draw against

Bolivia.

Marcelo Martins put Bolivia ahead in the 56th, capitalizing on

an error by Argentina defender Martin Demichelis. Lavezzi equalized

four minutes later with his first touch after coming on for Ricardo

Alvarez.

The draw at River Plate’s stadium in Buenos Aires is a

disappointment for coach Alejandro Sabella and his team, which has

four points from three qualifiers. It has failed to win its last

two matches, losing 1-0 to Venezuela and now drawing with

Bolivia.

Bolivia picked up its first point in three matches.

”Of course it’s a good point for us,” Martins said,

”considering that we earned it against one of the best-known teams

in the qualifying. … For as hard as we played, we deserved this

result.”

Bolivia has a history of giving the Gauchos trouble. Argentina

managed only a 1-1 draw against Bolivia four months ago in the

opening match of the Copa America, the continental championship

hosted by Argentina. In 2009, Bolivia thrashed Argentina 6-1 in a

match in the thin air of La Paz, which is located at 3,600 meters

(11,500 feet).

”We did enough to earn three points,” Sabella said. ”We had

shots hit the post, a goal inexplicably called back.”

Argentina, which struggled to qualify for the 2010 World Cup

under Diego Maradona, dominated the first half with Gonzalo Higuain

and Javier Pastore coming close.

Higuain put the ball in the net in the 21st minute, but referee

Carlos Vera Rodriguez of Ecuador had whistled just a second earlier

when Barcelona star Lionel Messi fell to the pitch in a clash with

a Bolivian defender.

Pastore shot just wide of the far post in the 33rd, and then hit

the post a minute later.

Messi was continually involved, but came up short of creating a

winner.

Messi shot just wide in the 76th, and Pastore had two late

chances in the 89th and in injury time.

”Getting three points would have been important,” Argentina

defender Clemente Rodriguez said. ”We had chances, but we couldn’t

finish.”

Argentina plays Tuesday at Colombia and Bolivia plays at

Venezuela.

Lineups:

Argentina: Sergio Romero, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis,

Nicolas Burdisso, Clemente Rodriguez, Fernando Gago, Javier

Mascherano (Jose Sosa, 82), Ricardo Alvarez (Ezequiel Lavezzi, 58),

Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Pastore.

Bolivia: Carlos Arias, Cristian Vargas, Luis Mendez, Ronald

Rivero, Luis Gutierrez, Edivaldo Rojas (Ronald Segovia, 54), Jaime

Robles, Walter Flores, Rudy Cardozo, Pablo Escobar, Marcelo Martins

(Augusto Andaveris, 76).