Argentina made light work of Bolivia in Córdoba to complete a good week for Gerardo Martino’s side and earn a second victory in five days. Lionel Messi scored his 50th goal for La Albiceleste as he inspired Argentina to the simplest of 2-0 wins over Bolivia. Messi’s from the penalty spot came shortly after Gabriel Mercado’s second goal of the week and although the margin of victory should have been greater, the three points were never in doubt.
As tough as victory over Chile in Santiago was, the visit of Bolivia is about as straight-forward as South American qualifying gets. Argentina should perhaps have been ahead inside ten seconds when Ángel Di María spurned a one-on-one chance before Éver Banega followed up and hit the crossbar and it proved to set the tone for almost the remainder of the match.
Messi was orchestrating proceedings and it was the captain’s quick thinking and weight of pass that created the opener after twenty minutes. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner took a quick free-kick and clipped the ball over the Bolivian defence to find Gonzalo Higuaín. His lobbed effort was cleared off the line but the in-form Napoli striker retrieved the ball and was able to square the ball for Gabriel Mercado to tap into the empty net.
Less than ten minutes later, Messi doubled the lead but was indebted to referee Jesús Valenzuela after the Venezuelan official harshly judged that Banega was tripped. Messi made no mistake and with Argentina two-up before the half hour mark, it looked like a question of how many they would win by.
Despite dominating and Messi, Higuaín and Biglia all going close, Argentina could not find a third. With victory already ensured the second half display was lethargic but the objective from this international break was achieved. After a terrible start to qualification, it is three consecutive wins now for Argentina and they now sit third, in what is a tight looking league table.