Sergio Aguero celebrated his birthday in style as he set Argentina on the way to a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Ecuador.
The 24-year-old star opened the scoring in the rout, allowing Argentina to leapfrog Chile and go top of the Conmebol World Cup qualifying standings.
Angel Di Maria was the architect, his wonderful lofted ball finding Aguero albeit in an offside position but the flag stayed down, and Kun smashed home to mark his 24th birthday with a goal.
Gonzalo Higuain was the next to score. The Real Madrid striker had previously squandered a chance from an almost identical pass from Di Maria, but made no mistake on the half hour when he calmly finished past Alexander Dominguez having picked up on a delicate through ball from Lionel Messi.
Ecuador appeared in complete disarray, and the third Argentine goal arrived just one minute later through Messi. The Barcelona maestro started the move with a driving run from deep, and continued into the box to pick up Higuain’s pass and finish with customary class.
The game was settled beyond all doubt on 76 minutes when Angel Di Maria netted to grab a deserved goal, courtesy of some more individual magic from Messi.
Argentina’s victory moves them one point ahead of Chile in the qualifying table, who accounted for 10-man Bolivia 2-0, earning a valuable three points in La Paz.
Charles Aranguiz put Claudio Borghi’s side ahead, slotting the ball past a stranded Daniel Vaca and the game was sealed eight minutes from time when Arturo Vidal coolly finished after the first effort had rebounded away from Vaca’s goal.
Meanwhile in Montevideo, a late own goal from Diego Godin cancelled out Diego Forlan’s first half strike to hold Uruguay to a draw and snatch a late point for Venezuela.
With 38 minutes played, Forlan grabbed the opening goal. Alvaro Pereira clipped a great ball forward which found Forlan, who had sprung the offside trap.
Uruguay’s top goalscorer controlled superbly, before keeping his balance and slotting past the grounded Renny Vega but with just five minutes remaining Venezuela grabbed a dramatic late equaliser through an own goal from Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin.
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