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Messi, Argentina settle for 1-1 draw in Bolivia

Photo: AIZAR RALDES/Getty Images

Lionel Messi and Argentina remain atop the South American group, with 24 points after 11 matches.

Captain Lionel Messi missed an easy chance near the end as his Argentina team had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier played at high altitude on Tuesday.

The third draw in a row between the two teams kept Argentina top of the South American group with 24 points from 11 matches. Bolivia have nine points from the same number of games.

The former world champions have now gone four games without a win against Bolivia since being crushed 6-1 on their previous visit to the Hernando Siles stadium, nearly 4,000 metres above sea level.

The hosts had much the better of the opening exchanges and went ahead in the 25th minute when striker Marcelo Martins rose above defender Hugo Campagnaro to head Alejandro Chumacero's right-wing cross past Sergio Romero.

Argentina, who had a good chance for striker Rodrigo Palacio saved by goalkeeper Sergio Galarza with his feet, equalised one minute before halftime.

Messi beat two defenders and fed left back Clemente Rodriguez whose centre was headed home by midfielder Ever Banega past the diving Galarza.

Bolivia ultimately had Galarza to thank for their point after two fine second-half saves, one a diving stop from Banega and later when he blocked Messi's attempt to thread the ball between his legs when the Argentine bore down on goal.

Romero had been the busier keeper in the first half, saving well from Diego Bejarano and Martins while Bolivia's Carlos Saucedo volleyed over from close range.

Visiting winger Angel Di Maria made a number of trademark weaving runs down the left and went close with a low shot in the 36th minute.

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