Messi, Aguero, Higuain on target as Argentina blank Ecuador
Buenos Aires: Sergio Aguero celebrated his birthday in style in Buenos Aires as he set Argentina on the way to a comprehensive victory over Ecuador. The 24-year-old star opened the scoring in a 4-0 rout, allowing the Albiceleste to leapfrog Chile and go top of the Conmebol World Cup qualifying standings.
The game was also vindication of Alejandro Sabella`s decision to play a no-holds-barred attacking game; as well as El Kun, Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria all celebrated hitting the net in a one-sided match.
The Argentina team came out with an attacking line-up as they were greeted by a sell-out crowd in the Monumental, and they immediately looked to take advantage as they pushed Ecuador onto the back foot. Lionel Messi gave the visitors an early scare when he picked up on Sergio Aguero`s intelligent flick and volleyed towards goal. Fortunately for the Tricolor, Alexander Dominguez was well placed and held the ball.
A misplaced pass from Pablo Zabaleta raised away spirits as Christian Suarez picked up on the ball and forced a save from Sergio Romero. Just minutes later, however, the Albiceleste fired their way into the lead. Angel Di Maria was the architect, his wonderful lofted ball finding Sergio 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 man on the scoresheet. The Real Madrid star 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 Dominguez having picked up on a delicate through ball from Lionel Messi.
Ecuador appeared in complete disarray, and the third Argentine strike arrived just one minute later. Messi started the move with a driving run from deep, and the Barcelona maestro continued into the box to pick up Higuain`s pass and finish with customary class. The visitors were pleased to hear the half time whistle provide a temporary respite, as they entered the break three goals down and appearing unable to stop the fluid Argentine attack.
Alejandro Sabella`s men thought they had won a penalty just five minutes into the second period, when Sergio Aguero went down following a brilliant combination between Messi and Higuain. Referee Victor Rivera was not convinced that Dominguez had brought down the Manchester City man, however, and showed the yellow card for simulation.
Ecuador put in a much-improved performance after the interval, threatening down both flanks through the efforts of Jefferson Montero and Antonio Valencia. The clear-cut chances, however, were falling to the Albiceleste. A dizzying individual run from Messi was only stopped by a good save from Dominguez, and the keeper was forced into action once more from the resulting corner to deny Federico Fernandez`s header.
Romero was no slouch either at the other end, and reacted well to keep the clean sheet intact when Jorge Guagua connected with a looping free kick. The game was settled beyond all doubt when Angel Di Maria netted to grab a deserved goal, one which came after more individual magic from Messi.
The victory means that Argentina move one point ahead of Chile in the qualifying table, having picked up 10 from their first five outings. Aguero`s booking, however, sees El Kun miss the Seleccion`s next World Cup 2014 test against Paraguay in September.