Lionel Messi struck the only goal of the game as 10-man Argentina secured a 1-0 win over rivals Uruguay in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.
Just over two months after retiring from international football, a decision he later reversed, Messi was the hero for Argentina in Mendoza.
The strike – which deflected off Uruguay defender Jose Maria Gimenez – was enough to separate the two sides in Edgardo Bauza’s first game in charge.
The win sends Argentina above Uruguay and to the top of the qualification standings after seven games.
Bauza and Co. were also forced to play the entire second half with 10 men after striker Paulo Dybala received a second yellow on the stroke of half-time.
Chances were few and far between in the opening stages, with Argentina dominating possession and Messi pulling the strings.
Their first real chance was a free-kick by Messi which did not clear the wall, before Mathias Corujo skied a good opportunity for the visitors.
Dybala was unlucky not to open the scoring just after the half-hour mark, with the Juventus attacker’s shot coming off the post and off the back of Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera and out for a corner.
Luis Suarez had a free-kick which went straight into the hands of Sergio Romero, before a Messi shot was blocked by Gimenez.
But just two minutes later Messi found the back of the net – his 56th goal for Argentina – aided by a heavy deflection from Gimenez once again, leaving Muslera stranded.
Suarez had the chance for an immediate response from the restart, but his shot was blocked by Pablo Zabaleta, before he attempted to set up Nicolas Lodeiro with a bicycle kick.
Things were looking good for Argentina until Dybala received a second yellow right before the break in rather harsh circumstances, following a soft foul on Corujo.
The second half was largely dominated by Uruguay, who used the extra man to their advantage to control more of the possession.
However, Messi almost doubled Argentina’s lead in the 52nd minute with a superb curling free-kick, which was brilliantly tipped away by Muslera.
Uruguay continued to attack but Suarez and strike partner Edinson Cavani failed to break through the Argentine defence, suffering their second defeat of the qualifying campaign.
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