Luis Suarez appeared to aggravate a knee injury in Uruguay’s goalless draw at home to Argentina in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.
Suarez was surprisingly included in Uruguay’s starting XI, despite being sidelined with a knee injury since Barcelona’s Supercopa de Espana second-leg loss to Real Madrid on August 16.
Barca boss Ernesto Valverde and the LaLiga club were left sweating when Suarez dropped to the ground clutching his knee in pain with seven minutes remaining before hobbling off in Montevideo on Thursday.
Argentina dominated proceedings at Estadio Centenario but they were unable to make their possession count in Jorge Sampaoli’s competitive debut as head coach after he replaced Edgardo Bauza in June.
The draw saw third-placed Uruguay – winless in six matches – improve to 24 points after 15 matches, a point adrift of Colombia and a point ahead of Argentina.
Uruguay were boosted by the inclusion of Suarez, who was not expected to play. There were also three changes to the team that lost 2-1 to Peru in the country’s previous qualifier in March as Martin Caceres, Gaston Silva and Nahitan Nandez came in for Jorge Fucile, Maximiliano Pereira and Carlos Sanchez.
It was a first competitive outing as coach for Sampaoli following friendly victories over Singapore and Brazil in June. And Argentina’s line-up on Thursday was almost unrecognisable to the side who went down 2-0 to Bolivia in March’s qualifier, when Bauza was still in charge. Sergio Romero, Angel Di Maria and Guido Pizarro were the only players to feature that day as the likes of Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, Lucas Biglia and Nicolas Otamendi came into the XI. Inter captain Mauro Icardi also earned his second cap, having not featured since making his debut in 2013.
The start of the match was relatively subdued, though Argentina enjoyed most of the possession without creating any real clear-cut opportunities against a Uruguay side desperate to end a run of five consecutive defeats.
Argentina – who won the reverse fixture last year – continued to control possession but they were almost caught out by Suarez’s audacious long-range attempt from just inside the halfway line as the clock ticked past the 30-minute mark.
Uruguay had the best opportunity of the match in the 37th minute when Edinson Cavani’s rebound was charged down by Romero, who struggled to deal with Cristian Rodriguez’s shot, while Biglia fired narrowly wide at the other end.
Messi came to life as the first half drew to a close, linking up with Dybala before surging down the middle and forcing Fernando Muslera into a save.
Tensions were high in the second half, though neither team appeared any closer to breaking the deadlock.
Messi did go close to making the breakthrough – his lovely free-kick approaching the hour-mark forcing Muslera into a diving save as he pushed the ball away for a corner.
The clash petered out to a draw, not before Suarez was forced from the pitch after appearing to re-injure his troublesome knee.
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