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.
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).