Argentina needed only a point to book a place in the final round of the Sudamericano and despite another underwhelming performance Maxi Romero’s late penalty earned La Albiceleste victory over Peru to ensure that World Cup qualification and maybe even the title remain on the table.
With Peru requiring victory to progress it was the Blanquirroja who were the better side for large parts and Manuel Roffo was the busier goalkeeper during the opening 45 minutes.
However, with neither side able to find a breakthrough shortly after the hour mark Peru’s task became far more difficult. Carlos Huerto scythed down Pedro de la Vega as the Lanús forward darted forward and while the centre back may have thought his tactical foul would bring a yellow card, referee Piero Maza brandished a red.
Argentina were finally able to enjoy a level of control and after substitute Maxi Romero had missed one clear opportunity, the PSV centre forward made certain. It was Romero’s run into the penalty that drew the foul and the penalty and the 20-year-old beat Emile Franco from 12 yards to wrap up the win.
Fernando Batista is yet to find his best eleven and there is a sense that Argentina still haven’t really clicked in Chile. The final stage begins on Tuesday with a rematch against a talented Ecuador side, who inflicted the only defeat from this first group, and the Albiceleste will need to be much better.
Five games stand between Argentina and a place in the 2019 World Cup and while that should be the main focus, the possibility of lifting the trophy remains.