Argentina picked up a crucial World Cup Qualifying win Thursday night at shorthanded Chile, taking out La Roja by a 2-1 margin in a rematch of the Copa America 2015 Final.
The scoring all came early, with the three goals coming in the match's first 25 minutes. While Chile's Felipe Gutierrez was able to strike first, Angel Di Maria and Gabriel Mercado answered minutes later to give Argentina the advantage, one that would go on to last the rest of the game.
With the result, the Argentines move ahead of Juan Antonio Pizzi's squad with eight points through five qualifying matches. Chile finds itself stuck at seven points while the leaders Ecuador are way ahead of the game with 13 points.
How It Went Down
Chile truly felt the absence of Arturo Vidal in the midfield, which showed over the course of the entire match, but in the opening series of the match, La Roja looked far from lacking. Matias Fernandez exited the pitch in the 7th minute due to injury, but that didn't stop La Roja from striking first.
The Chileans went up 1-0 in the 10th minute, as a Fabian Orellana cross found the head of Felipe Gutierrez, who slotted the ball past Sergio Romero with purpose for the match's first score.
The lead didn't last for long at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago de Chile, as Angel Di Maria was quick to make sure La Roja's lead disappeared. Amid a skirmish in Chile's defensive box, Di Maria calmly just unleashed the curved shot of dreams to beat 'keeper Claudio Bravo from the left side of the net, making it 1-1 just 19 minutes in.
Injury was added to insult when Marcelo Diaz also came down injured in the 21st minute in Chile's midfield. That left both Bryan Rabello and Francisco Silva in the midfield for a large portion of the match, definitely not guys Pizzi was aiming to send on from a tactical standpoint.
Gabriel Mercado put Argentina up 2-1 in the 24th minute, finishing off a Lionel Messi flick with an impressive volley of his own from the immediate front-right portion of the penalty area. Straight off the restart, Alexis Sanchez came close to scoring on a just-wide lobbed attempt, and things began to quiet down.
Sergio Aguero's curled shot ended up off-target in the 64th minute, and Chile tried to spark an equalizer as the final moments approached. Sanchez had a close chance on a free kick, but Argentina would not be moved, and Chile's comeback attempt fell short, the final result remaining at 2-1.
Mercado, the scorer of the game-deciding goal, humbly added after the match that "Victory is what [Argentina] came to find. The important thing was winning, not who makes the goals."
Claudio Bravo was honored for appearing in his 100th match with Chile's national team. He was presented with a commemorative shirt by the federation's president, Arturo Salah.