Argentina and Chile, two South American heavyweights, battled in the Bay Area on Monday night for control of Group D, with both expected to qualify from the group with ease.
After a closely contested first half, Argentina sprung to life in the second 45 by scoring twice in ten minutes to move top in the crucial match of Group D. Goals from Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega were enough to see off the defending champions.
Things got off to an exciting start with Argentina almost taking the lead inside three minutes. Marcos Rojo's ball from the left was flicked on by Nicolas Gaitan, who replaced Lionel Messi in the starting lineup, but the effort skimmed the crossbar. Argentina continued to threaten down the left-hand side with Rojo and Angel Di Maria, with the latter firing just wide after some great individual work by Gaitan.
Chile struggled to create any clear-cut chances in the opening 20 minutes, although Arturo Vidal did find himself in the box after Alexis Sanchez's through ball but the midfielder stumbled at the last second. Their best chance of the opening half an hour fell to the ever-energetic Sanchez but his shot was saved well by Sergio Romero after a lazy pass in defense.
Last summer's winners grew into the game after a slow start and Sanchez was again the danger man moments after his first chance. His curling free kick from 25 yards out forced Romero to come across and catch. The first half had plenty of action but no goals to show for it, despite both sides coming close on various occasions.
The second half got underway in similar fashion to the first, only this time, Chile created a handful of chances early on. A corner in the 48th minute was met by Gonzalo Jara but the defender headed over from a good position. Minutes later, Chile were forced to rue their missed chances as Argentina took the lead.
Ever Banega went on a solo run before feeding the ball to Angel Di Maria who finished under Claudio Bravo to give Argentina a 1-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second half. Chile tried to break down Argentina in the minutes following the goal but sloppy possession cost them the chance to create.
Sloppy possession would eventually cost Chile in the 58th minute as Argentina doubled their lead through Ever Banega. Di Maria, who scored the first, turned provider by finding Banega and his shot deflected past Bravo at the near post. Both goals were almost a mirror image of each other.
Argentina could have grabbed a third just after the hour mark but Gonzalo Higuain's low shot was stopped by the outstretched foot of Claudio Bravo. Almost immediately at the other end, Vidal managed to dig out a chance but his volley is an easy save for Romero.
Sergio Aguero came on with 15 minutes to play and almost had an instant impact. The Man City striker shifted the ball onto his left foot but fired over from just outside the area as Argentina aimed to put the game to bed.
Argentina continued to press for a third and were almost rewarded as Aguero swung a delightful ball into the area but Rojo could only direct his header wide. Chile managed to pull one back in stoppage time as Jose Pedro Fuenzalida flicked a free kick past Romero but it proved to mean little as Chile fell 2-1 on the night.
The win will be a huge boost for Argentina as they defeat Chile without Lionel Messi. Angel Di Maria's performance was the stand out as Chile rarely threatened after the second goal went in. Argentina face Panama, who were also victorious today, next while Chile face Bolivia.