Argentina earned their first three points of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign after a hard fought 1-0 win against Colombia in Barranquilla. Lucas Biglia’s first half goal proved to be enough against a lacklustre home side that failed to create too many clear chances. La Albiceleste perhaps should have made it more comfortable with Paulo Dybala having a goal harshly ruled out for offside and another shot hitting the post but it mattered very little. In the circumstances the result was all that mattered and with a first win under their belts and Lionel Messi to return, Argentina can look forward now.
The surprise prior to kickoff was Gerardo Martino’s decision to pick Gabriel Mercado at right-back but in the opening 45 minutes, there were relatively few tests for the Argentina backline. Gonzalo Higuaín had already gone close before La Albiceleste deservedly took the lead before the 20 minute mark. Lucas Biglia won the ball back deep in his own half and continued his run as Éver Banega and Ezequiel Lavezzi broke. With Colombia struggling to get back, Lavezzi’s low cross was hopelessly missed by Cristian Zapata and Biglia tapped the ball into the empty net.
Ángel Di María should have doubled the lead when one-on-one with David Ospina as Colombia’s sole chance came by virtue of a couple of penalty shouts. Teo Gutiérrez was at the centre of both; the first after Ramiro Funes Mori miscued a header back to Sergio Romero and the second under a slide tackle from Funes Mori. On both occasions, the referee waved it away correctly.
In the second half, Colombia enjoyed more of the possession but still failed to really work Sergio Romero and in truth Argentina should have put the result beyond doubt. Substitute Paulo Dybala was harshly denied his first international goal by the linesman’s flag and the Juventus youngster later hit the post but could not double the lead.
Jeison Murillo blazed over Colombia’s best opportunity late on and Argentina held on for an invaluable victory. The result temporarily raises La Albiceleste all the way up to fourth and should see Gerardo Martino’s position safe for the timebeing. Chile away is next up and Argentina will be without Javier Mascherano after El Jefecito was booked this afternoon. However, crucially, there is a weight lifted now and in March, Martino should have Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero back available.