FIFA World Cup qualifier: Argentina and Colombia play out entertaining draw
Buenos Aires: Argentina could see their lead at the top of the Conmebol World Cup qualifying group cut to just two points after they were held to a 0-0 draw by Colombia at Estadio Monumental.
After an open start which saw plenty of goal-mouth action, it was ultimately a refereeing decision that took the life from the game. Cristian Zapata and Gonzalo Higuain were both dismissed following a first-half altercation and as more conservative play flourished, neither side was able to find the net before the final whistle.
Despite Lionel Messi starting among the substitutes, the Albiceleste began positively and could have found themselves ahead inside four minutes. Angel di Maria`s flick played Pablo Zabaleta in on the overlap but his cross was hit just behind both Walter Montillo and Sergio Aguero.
Di Maria was at it again in the eighth minute, sliding a lovely through-ball to Higuain but David Ospina raced out of his goal to block the striker from slotting in the opener.
The chances continued to flow at both ends, though Argentina remained the more threatening of the two sides.
After Radamel Falcao had somehow contrived to head wide from just outside the six-yard box, a poor clearance from Carlos Sanchez in the 17th minute fell straight to Higuain, but Ospina made himself big to block the volley and Marcos Rojo was unable to head in the rebound.
In what was an open, hotly-contested fixture, things boiled over in the 26th minute. Following Higuain`s overzealous challenge on Ospina, Zapata reacted angrily and kicked out at the striker. The referee subsequently showed the AC Milan man a red card and, following protests from the visitors, the official located Higuain and awarded him the same punishment for his original tackle.
The dismissals sapped the momentum from the game as, despite the increased amount of space on the field, both sides shrunk away from their previously-adventurous approaches.
With los Cafeteros starting to push the hosts back early in the second half, Alejandro Sabella played his top card by introducing Messi for Walter Montillo just before the hour mark.
It took the Barcelona superstar little over one minute to give the home fans something to shout about, initiating a move which ended with Luis Perea turning the ball behind for a corner.
The tide had certainly turned and the Albiceleste believed they had finally broken the deadlock in the 72nd minute when Sergio Aguero rolled in from close range, only to see the assistant referee with his flag raised for a contentious offside decision on the sidelines.
Argentina continued to press for a winner but they were unable to forge another meaningful opening that would see them open a temporary seven-point gap at the top of the group.
Instead, Sabella`s team sit five points clear of Ecuador and Colombia having played 12 matches, with la Tri to play Peru on Saturday.