Maestro Messi to the rescue - but some of Argentina's problems persist

The Barcelona forward struck with a fantastic free-kick and assisted the second and third goals, but the Albiceleste still did not completely convince in victory over Colombia

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This was much better from Argentina. After the painful 3-0 defeat to Brazil in Belo Horizonte at the weekend, the Albiceste needed a reaction against Colombia and it arrived - thanks to - who else - but Lionel Messi. However, some of the problems persist for Edgardo Bauza's men.

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Argentina had never won a qualifier in Brazil. Nevertheless, the manner of their loss to their fiercest rivals was desperately disappointing. With Messi left isolated, the Albiceleste were well beaten: a 3-0 defeat that could have been even more humiliating.

It left the 2014 World Cup finalists in sixth position in qualifying for Russia 2018 and in need of a win in this match against Colombia. And if Bauza was under pressure, Messi too was under the spotlight - rightly or wrongly.

In times of crisis, though, Leo is a good man to have around. The Barcelona forward was constantly fouled early on in the game as Colombia struggled to keep Argentina at bay. Eder Balanta, in particular, was struggling to contain the 29-year-old, while Radamel Falcao was picked even though Jose Pekerman's men set out to attack on the break.

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Colombia played into Argentina's hands. And giving away a free-kick just outside the area after 10 minutes was as needless as it was ominous. Messi is deadly from there and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner curled in a stunning strike which went in off the crossbar.

It was a moment of genius but one which, from a Colombian point of view, could have been avoided. And after 23 minutes, the visitors found themselves two down. This time, Messi attacked down the right and sent in an inviting cross for Lucas Pratto to head home.

Gonzalo Higuain had started against Brazil, while Sergio Aguero is considered by many to be Argentina's finest centre-forward, but both would probably have missed that chance. Pratto may not be the stylist's choice, but he put it away - and thereby vindicated his inclusion in the team.

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Ever Banega in midfield also improved Argentina's play. The Inter man came in for Enzo Perez, so disappointing against Brazil, and there was a noticeable improvement in the link-up play, with Angel Di Maria one to benefit from the extra quality provided by the former Sevilla and Valencia midfielder.

Di Maria netted the third late on, made by Messi once again. The Barca forward dispossessed Jeison Murillo and squared for the Paris Saint-Germain attacker to blast into the empty net and compete a resounding victory.

Still, though, there were spaces in midfield. Still there appeared to be an overload of forwards and few passing options at times. Still there was a lack of fluidity in the play despite the introduction of Banega.

Ultimately, maestro Messi made the difference and killed off Colombia in the first quarter of this match, but Bauza's side remain outside the top four qualifying spots - and better teams will still give Argentina a hard time on this evidence.