Argentina, Brazil fight for draw in much-awaited World Cup qualifier
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina and Brazil drew 1–1 in their much-awaited World Cup qualifier on Friday, with neither of the traditional South American powers able to secure the victory needed to kick-start their slow start to the 2018 qualifying campaign.
Ezequiel Lavezzi scored in the 34th minute for Argentina, but Lucas Lima leveled in the 59th to disappoint a sellout crowd at River Plate’s Monumental Stadium in the Argentine capital.
Argentina, the World Cup runner-up last year in Brazil, has only two points from three qualifying games. It played Friday without three injured stars—Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez—and it showed.
Brazil has four points from three games. It had Neymar back from a four-game ban, but continued to struggle with pressure mounting on coach Dunga and Argentina’s Gerardo Martino.
Ecuador leads South American qualifying with a perfect nine points followed by Chile with seven and Uruguay with six.
Peru recorded its first points of the campaign after two losses by winning 1-0 at home against Paraguay.
Jefferson Farfan scored the sole goal in the 20th minute and the hosts held on in a match they could not afford to lose if they were to challenge for the top four spots which yield World Cup berths.
The classic showdown between South America's traditional powers was delayed a day when torrential rain in Buenos Aires prompted officials to call of the match before it began on Thursday.
Friday's match began with a minute of silence for the scores killed in Friday's shootings and explosions in Paris.
Lavezzi broke through as Argentina dominated the first half, lashing in a short-range shot from a perfect cross from the right side by Gonazlo Higuain. It was Argentina's first goal in three World Cup qualifiers.
The goal came after Argentina dominated the first half with Ever Banega, Angel Di Maria and Facundo Roncaglia testing Brazil keeper Alisson with early chances.
Neymar hardly touched the ball in the first half and was ineffective when he did. Brazil had few chances and seldom mounted an attack, though it pressed and was better in the second half.
Banega should have put Argentina ahead 2-0 but hit the post in the 47th with an open goal facing him.
Brazil capitalized on that reprieve and score when Lima knocked in a ball that bounced to him after Douglas Costa had hit the crossbar.
Argentina probably had the best chance to win late when Nicolas Otamendi's headed a ball just wide of the near post in the 86th.
In the next round of qualifiers on Tuesday, it's: Colombia vs. Argentina, Venezuela vs. Ecuador, Paraguay vs. Bolivia, Uruguay vs. Chile, and Brazil vs. Peru.