When Argentina faced Venezuela only a few months ago in the Copa América quarter-finals, La Albiceleste ran out 4-1 winners but there were warning signs and on Tuesday evening in a rain-soaked Mérida and without the services of Lionel Messi, Edgardo Bauza’s side narrowly avoided a humiliating defeat.
A thoroughly uninspired performance saw the attacking quartet of Ángel Di María, Éver Banega, Érik Lamela and Lucas Pratto barely land a punch on Daniel Hernández in the Venezuela goal and it came as little surprise when Argentina found themselves behind.
Admittedly Sergio Romero hadn’t had a great deal to do either when Juan Pablo Añor opened the scoring after 35 minutes but there was no questioning the quality of the goal. The 22-year-old twisted away from two defenders on the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a fierce left footed shot into the top corner.
There was little reaction from Edgardo Bauza’s side as Banega failed to get a grip on the game, Lamela was anonymous on the right and Di María appeared clueless on the left.
And while the attack misfired, Argentina’s defence were being given a very uncomfortable evening which shortly after half time resulted in a second. Salomón Rondón nicked the ball from Nicolás Otamendi and ran clear before squaring the ball for Josef Martínez to slot the ball with ease over a prostrate Sergio Romero.
It was only at this point that Argentina appeared to have any life and within five minutes Lucas Pratto provided a way back into the game. The Atlético Mineiro striker won’t have scored many scrappier goals in his career but his perserverance yielded a first international strike to his name and hope for La Albiceleste.
The game opened up and Bauza intent on getting at least a point threw on Ángel Correa, Lucas Alario and Nicolás Gaitán.
With seven minutes remaining, Argentina did level and it was through Otamendi but they were unable to steal what would have been an unjustified three points.
Venezuela 2 – 2 Argentina
Elsewhere, Uruguay thumped Paraguay 4-0 in Montevideo to go top of the group and Neymar snatched a winner for Brazil against Colombia to join Argentina a point behind the leaders in second. Ecuador lost away to Peru but remain in fifth and the biggest shock of the evening was Copa América champions Chile being held to a goalless draw by Bolivia in Santiago. A result which leaves La Roja with work to do down in seventh.