The disappointment of last week’s draw with Paraguay was clear but Argentina provided the ideal response on Tuesday with victory over Peru in Lima. Two first half goals from Nicolás González and Lautaro Martínez were enough and in truth flattered the hosts. A dominant Argentina could have added more as Lionel Scaloni’s side extended their unbeaten run to eleven games.
The defensive concerns remain and were evident in the opening exchanges as Argentina were left to sweat over a VAR review when Cristian Cueva got in behind and went down under a challenge from Franco Armani. But once referee Wilmar Roldán deemed there was no contact Argentina didn’t look back.
With Lionel Messi relishing his role ahead of a far more balanced midfield of Rodrigo de Paul, Leandro Paredes and Giovani Lo Celso, the Albiceleste were able to use possession and provide Messi with the partnerships he has so often craved in an Argentina shirt.
This move away from complete dependence on Messi was evident in Argentina’s opener as the fit again Nicolás Tagliafico released Lo Celso down the left and his cut-back found Nicolás González who drilled a low shot past Pedro Gallese. The 22-year-old Stuttgart forward now an integral part of Scaloni’s set-up, showing his worth with a goal as a makeshift full-back against Paraguay and another when further forward in Lima.
Argentina doubled their lead ten minutes later and this time Messi was involved but as part of that dynamic midfield unit, exchanging passes with Lo Celso, finding Leandro Paredes who in turn slid the ball in for Lautaro Martínez to round Gallese to slot home.
After one of the strongest 45-minute displays under Scaloni there was little let-up after the break yet Argentina were unable to find a third. Substitutes Lucas Ocampos and Ángel Di María were both denied by the legs of Gallese and Messi came close to sliding in what would have been a trademark finish from the edge of the box.
Regardless of adding more goals it was a comfortable victory and with fixtures against Uruguay and Brazil when they reconvene in March it was an important three points.
“From the start we played a great game, the goals came and we created lots of chances,” Messi said after the game.
“We are happy with the victory, we needed it after the other day. This is the path we have to keep on going down.”
It was certainly a step in the right direction and the positives were clear. Those fixtures in March should help to answer a number of the lingering doubts over Argentina’s defence.