It wasn’t the type of performance to silence critics but importantly it was a second consecutive away victory and a crucial three points for Argentina. Goals from Ángel Di María and Gabriel Mercado overturned Felipe Gutiérrez’s early header to give Gerardo Martino’s side a hard fought victory over Chile and jump back into the World Cup qualification places.
Argentina were able to name Lionel Messi in the starting eleven for the first time in qualiifying and although the little genius immediately appeared on his game there was little he could do to prevent Chile taking an early lead. La Albiceleste failed to adequately defend a Fabián Orellana’s corner and Felipe Gutiérrez rose to powerfully head the ball past Sergio Romero.
The response from Argentina was excellent and with Messi probing and threatening each time he received the ball it wasn’t long before Martino’s side were level. Éver Banega bundled his way into the penalty area and when the ball fell at the feet of Ángel Di María, the Paris St Germain player produced a rare moment of quality with his right foot. A huge advocate of the rabona, given how left footed he is, the manner in which Di María curled the ball with his right into the far corner suggested far greater quality than many had thought the 28-year-old possessed.
Five minutes later and Argentina led and if a right-footed Di María goal was unlikely then so too was the nature of the second. Lionel Messi almost found a way to goal but as Mauricio Isla attempted to wrestle the ball from him, it popped up to Gabriel Mercado and he produced an acrobatic volley to beat Claudio Bravo.
After a bright first half, Argentina gradually began losing control of the game and it was Chile who posed the greatest danger after the break. However, aside from a smart Romero save from Orellana and Mauricio Pinilla wasting a good opportunity, La Roja failed to create too many opportunities.
Ahead of the Bolivia match on Tuesday, victory was an enormous boost for qualification and also for confidence but Gerardo Martino still has plenty of work to do. Tuesday’s match will bring with it new defensive headaches with Ramiro Funes Mori and Nicolás Otamendi both suspended but there can be no excuses for dropped points in Córdoba.