Argentina player ratings v Chile – Messi returns from injury to lead the way

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Argentina’s return to World Cup qualification was perhaps not overly convincing but Gerardo Martino’s side claimed an important 2-1 win in Santiago over Copa América champions Chile. It was undoubtedly a good time to face La Roja, under a new manager and with several key players missing but Argentina did just enough to claim all three points. With qualification now looking more on track than it did after the first couple of matches, La Albiceleste must continue improving and pushing up the table. So, who were Argentina’s best performers against Chile, Golazo gives it’s take on the win….

Sergio Romero – 6.5

For as long as Romero is a second choice keeper at club level his place in the national side will be questioned. In Santiago, the 29-year-old did what was asked of him but the Manchester United stopper could do little about Felipe Gutiérrez’s headed opener. When the home side increased their pressure, Romero was still not called into action a great deal but made a good save to deny Fabián Orellana.

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Gabriel Mercado – 7.5

Mercado’s place in the starting eleven over Pablo Zabaleta was questioned by many but the River Plate defender put in a good performance at right back and crucially scored the winning goal. Getting forward well, Mercado provided width on the right and an overlapping outlet for Messi when he came inside.

Nicolás Otamendi – 6.5

A few uncomfortable moment for Otamendi but on the whole a solid performance by the Manchester City defender after coming through a late fitness test. A booking in injury time means Otamendi will miss the visit of Bolivia on Tuesday and contributes to Martino’s defensive headaches.

Ramiro Funes Mori – 7

Another decent performance from Funes Mori, who continues to strengthen his claim as an international defender. Strong in the air and in the tackle and comfortable with the ball at his feet, the only negative was his yellow card which brings with it a one-match suspension.

Marcos Rojo – 5.5

A difficult season in Manchester with injuries and a lack of playing time has Rojo’s position in the Argentina defence under scrutiny; his inclusion perhaps more a signal of a lack of options rather than his performances. Against Chile, Rojo failed to contribute to the attack on the left and was at times a little rash in the challenge.

Lucas Biglia – 6

A mixed performance from Biglia after his man of the man display last time out against Colombia. Some imprecise passing in the opening stages saw possession break down but the Lazio midfielder improved as the first half wore on. After the break as Argentina sat deeper, the midfield lost it’s way and so all that Biglia was able to demonstrate were his battling qualities.

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Matías Kranevitter – 7

Another mature performance from Matías Kranevitter as he ably deputised for Javier Mascherano in front of the defence. A busy, ball winning presence in the centre and a simple redistributor of the ball. If Mascherano is to drop into the back four, Martino has decent cover in midfield.

Éver Banega – 6

Outstanding in the previous two qualifiers, Banega’s level dropped again in Santiago, perhaps made unsure by Messi dropping deep and inside off the left into positions where he roamed against Brazil and Colombia. It was Banega’s run into the penalty area that led to Di María’s goal but he failed to create much more before being withdrawn for Augusto Fernández.

Lionel Messi – 8

Back in the side after injury for his first taste of 2018 World Cup qualifying, Lionel Messi gave a first half performance that reminded everyone just what Argentina had been missing. Dancing around the Chilean defence, almost every time, Messi got the ball, he made something happen. The second half was more difficult as the supply line became cut off but this was more systemic of Argentina rather than any fault of Messi. Without so much as a shot on goal himself, Messi will be hoping he can claim his 50th international goal against Bolivia on Tuesday.

Sergio Agüero – 6

Agüero was given the nod over Gonzalo Higuaín as Argentina’s number nine for the clash with Chile and failed to make much of an impression against a physical Chilean central defence. The Manchester City striker contributed to link-up play well enough and tried to hold up the ball but was unable to take any of the half chances that came his way. Agüero was replaced by Higuaín with 20 minutes to go and may drop to the bench for Tuesday.

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Ángel Di María – 7

Perhaps worthy of a ten simply for scoring such a goal with his right foot, Di María performed an important role in the victory. Moments of imprecision and incorrect decisions offset by a wonderfully taken goal and a vital outlet during the second half through which to break.

Substitutions

Gonzalo Higuaín – 6

Entering the game when Argentina had already lost control it wasn’t the easiest task for Higuaín to make much of an impact. Europe’s most dangerous striker this season looked sharp but will probably have to wait until Tuesday’s match against Bolivia to get any chances in front of goal.

Augusto Fernández – 6

Wasn’t given much time but replacing Banega, Augusto Fernández helped shore up the side as a double-five alongside Kranevitter.

Ezequiel Lavezzi – 6

A late introduction, Lavezzi simply provided a set of fresh legs. A late yellow card puts Pocho out of Tuesday’s match and so this could be his last action for La Albiceleste after his transfer to China.

 

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