Argentina continued their perfect start to World Cup qualification without the rested Lionel Messi, after easing to a 3-0 victory over 10-man Bolivia and extending their unbeaten run to 12 games in all competitions, Reelradio.com.ng reports.
The reigning world champions gradually worked their way into the match, and almost broke the deadlock in emphatic fashion through Enzo Fernández. He took aim from distance and saw his ferocious strike tipped over the bar.
However, the Chelsea midfielder did not have to wait too long to get on the scoresheet, as Álvarez linked up brilliantly with Ángel Di María, who laid the ball on a plate for him to deliver a clinical first-time finish.
Bolivia were then dealt another blow, when Roberto Fernández was shown his marching orders for a studs-up challenge on Cristian Romero. The defender was initially shown a second yellow card, but after referee Esteban Ostojich was encouraged to view the incident again by the VAR, this was upgraded to a straight red.
La Albiceleste quickly made their one-man advantage count before half time, after Nicolás Tagliafico scored his first senior international goal via a fortuitous nick off his shoulder from Di María’s free-kick.
Normal service resumed after the break, and Atlético Madrid midfielder Rodrigo De Paul’s effort from the edge of the box was a sign of intent to grab a quick third. However, it was parried to safety by Guillermo Viscarra, and the game settled back into its usual rhythm.
Argentina were seemingly content to bide their time in the thin mountain air of La Paz, against a La Verde side which had nowhere near enough quality to trouble them. Nevertheless, there was still time for Nicolás González to smash in a third goal after beating Viscarra at his near post.
On the basis of this Bolivian performance, qualification for a first World Cup finals since 1994 appears to be a long shot for Gustavo Costas’ side. However, with the top six sides sealing automatic qualification and the seventh-place team sealing an intercontinental play-off berth, a place in the expanded tournament is not completely out of the question.
As for Argentina, they have not tasted defeat in any of their last 23 qualifiers and their remaining qualifiers are surely a formality.