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WC Qualification South America
23 March 2013
• Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, Capital Federal, Ciudad de Buenos Aires
Referee: V. Carrillo
• Attendance: 40000
G. Higuaín 29', 59'
L. Messi 45'
Well that's all, folks. Catch you next time.
90' + 3'
And that's that. Fairly routine for Argentina in the end, who will take a lot of positives from tonight's performance. Venezuela leave disappointed, but they live to fight another day - their dream is far from over.
90' + 2'
Cesar Gonzalez strikes it straight at the wall and it bounces up safely into the hands of Romero.
Ever Banega brings down Otero right on the edge of the box as the visitors still search for a consolation.
This victory will also go some way to making up for that defeat in Venezuela almost two years ago.
Yellow Card Pablo Zabaleta
While this victory keeps Argentina well on course for qualification, the result will have more impact further down the table. If Peru beat Chile later this evening, this group is wide open from top to bottom, with only Bolivia and Paraguay looking like true outsiders.
Yellow Card Miku
Messi takes the corner, cleared, but only as far as Benega, who skips past Miku only to be brought down. Yellow card for the Celtic man.
Rodrigo Palacio's first involvement sees him win a corner down the right. And Lavezzi will be replaced by Maxi Rodriguez.
Well, Otero squanders another golden opportunity, once almost identical to the one he wasted earlier. Rondon again pulled the ball back from the left only to see Otero hit his weak shot straight at Romero from 10 yards.
Higuain's evening is over, and he's replaced by Rodrigo Palacio.
Lavezzi gets in on the left, breaking into the area and crossing low for Messi, who, I think, attempted a scorpion kick, only to see the ball balloon up into the air.
Yellow Card Gonzalo Higuaín
Higuain picks up a silly yellow card for not retreating the required distance from free kick.
And an extended passage of passing ends with Montillo once again trying his luck from distance, and once again it flashes over the bar.
Argentina pulling the Venezuela defence all over the place as they probe and probe in search of a fourth here.
Cichero ventures forward on the left, but his cross-shot is straight into the arms of Romero.
Messi waltzes through, hurdling one tackle after another before finally laying it off to Montillo, whose touch is too heavy. Tackles flying in now.
Well, Rincon's still on the field, so what do I know?
Best chance of the game for the visitors. Rondon showed pace and skill to twice beat Fernandez before squaring for Otero, who lifts his shot up and over the bar from 10 yards.
Yellow Card J. Arango
Higuain appeared to be marginally offside there. Not that he cares. Venezuela didn't appeal. Nevermind.
Goal Gonzalo Higuaín
GOL! And that's brilliant. Lionel Messi races at the Venezuela defence before sliding a delicious pass into the box for Higuain to race in and slot it past Hernandez first time.
Montillo again tries an ambitious effort at goal, this time controlling Gago's square pass and smashing a volley at goal from all of 25 yards. However it's straight at Hernandez.
Montillo latches on to Gago's through ball but lofts his attempted chip up and over Hernandez's bar. He probably should have just smashed that in low.
Fabulous ball from Gago, but Lavezzi went just too early and is flagged offside.
Stat attack: Argentina went down two years ago to Venezuela after winning every single one of their previous 19 encounters.
Messi plays a one-two with Lavezzi and bursts into the box, bouncing off defenders before finding his way back to the ball in time to see his shot blocked by the onrushing Hernandez.
And we're off. Again.
And that's half time.
Penalty Goal Lionel Messi
Messi takes it himself... GOL! He hammers it into the roof of the net and Argentina are two up.
Penalty to Argentina! Cichero handles the bouncing ball as Messi charges into the box.
Rojo again finds himself in space on the left, this time his low, driven cross finds Messi, who volleys over the bar from 12 yards.
I've long been a fan of Rincon, or at least been a fan of the player he could be were he to one day curb his enthusiasm a little. He just flies into needless tackles and picks up card after card.
Messi himself will take the free kick, some 30 yards from goal, but smashes it straight at the wall.
Yellow Card T. Rincón
Rincon finally goes into the book for a body check on Messi.
Ole ole ole, chant the Buenos Aires crowd as Argentina pop the ball about.
Still at a loss as to why the rest of the world doesn't use the disappearing spray to mark free kicks and where the wall has to stand. Fifa gave it the go ahead. Seems a no-brainer?
Yellow Card A. González
Gonzalez goes into the book for an idiotic and needless tackle from behind on Walter Montillo. He was going nowhere there, and the Venezuelan just flew though the back of him. Silly booking.
Goal Gonzalo Higuaín
GOL! Argentina lead. Gonzalo Higuain calmly slides his shot past Hernandez from inside the box after a neat one-touch exchange between Montillo and Messi released the Real Madrid man.
Real chance there. Montillo finds space on the left before scuffing a low cross into the box. It appeared routine for Hernandez, but he made a mess of it, patting the ball into the path of Higuain who sees his shot blocked by Vizcarrondo.
Stat attack: Argentina have scored over two goals a game across the tournament so far, notching 20 in nine appearances.
Sabella favourite Maros Rojo heavily involved so far, as Argentina concentrate most of their play down the left. This time he wins a corner, but it comes to nothing.
Messi again comes forward, floating into in that inside left channel, this time laying it off for Rojo, who blasts his shot into the side netting from a tight angle. Argentina getting closer.
Snack chat: What will be helping you through the game? I've got some spicy bombay mix and a Yerba Mate on the go.
Messi exchanges passes with Higuain, and flies towards goal before his low shot from left to right is well saved by Hernandez. First real chance for Messi. Let that be a warning.
Quarter of an hour in here, and pretty much as we expected so far. Venezuela compact and resolute, Argentina struggling to find a way through.
That's Rincon's second infringement, as he's blown for a foul on Lionel Messi as the Barca man wriggled away. Rincon will do well to last an hour tonight.
Pocho Lavezzi turns on the afterburners, flying down the left wing, but his cross is poor.
"A Hat-trick for Messi is the most I expect from the showdown!!! I am confident Argentina will win," says Goal.com reader Ahmed Bulgas on Twitter. This Venezuela side certainly won't make it easy.
Messi floats in from the right, cutting inside two before hammering a drive straight at Dani Hernandez in the Venezuela goal.
Big night for a number of the Argentines too, not least little Walter Montillo who will be hoping to make a big impression in the absence of Angel di Maria.
Argentina have settled now and are beginning to dominate possession. Marcos Rojo finds some space on the left but his cross-cum-shot is straight at the keeper.
Rincon commits his first foul of the evening. Right, who had 3 minutes?
Indeed, the only recorded their maiden qualifying victory in 2007 with a win over Ecuador.
Big game for both teams tonight, with results elsewhere meaning Venezuela can take another step towards what would be their first ever World Cup finals appearance.
And we're off.
Here we go.
The teams are in. Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Fernandez, Garay, Rojo; Gago, Mascherano, Montillo; Higuain, Messi, Lavezzi. Venezuela: Dani; Alexander, Vizcarrondo, Túñez, Cichero; Rincon, Lucena; Seijas, Arango; Feltscher, Rondon.
If you want to get involved, send me your thoughts, or just have a chat, then find me on Twitter @Rupert_Fryer
Hola muchachos. Welcome to Goal.com's live coverage of this World Cup qualifier between Argentina and Venezuela. My name is Rupert Fryer and I will be guiding you through the action this evening.
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