Argentina and Paraguay remained undefeated in World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL after playing out a tense 1-1 draw on Thursday night at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires. The hosts were the superior side but far from sharp, while Paraguay had just two shots on goal in the match, and spent the entire second half clinging to their chances at a single point.
The two-time World Cup champs looked to be well on their way to three points when Lionel Messi scored in the second half, but his potential winner was called back after the ref went to VAR and called a foul in the build up. Messi later hit the crossbar on a dangerous free kick but ultimately Argentina couldn't find a second goal.
The match started with Argentina seeing more possession, demonstrating superior play and creating clearer chances, but it was the guests who got on the board first thanks to a penalty kick conceded by a clumsy challenge from Lucas Martinez Quarta. Angel Romero, who plays his club ball in Argentina for San Lorenzo, made it 1-0 with a calm finish past Franco Armani in the 21st minute.
The teams then went back and forth without any really good chances until poor defending from Paraguay led to a corner kick that should never have happened, and Argentina made them pay. A poor attempted trap of the ball by the Paraguay backline trickled out for a corner, and then Giovani Lo Celso found Nicolas Gonzalez at the front post for a thumping header to level the score 20 minutes after they'd conceded.
After pulling level, Lionel Scaloni's team kicked it up another gear, dominating the ball, although the chances they created were far from great. Argentina were sharper on the ball but other than a long shot from Rodrigo de Paul, still too reliant on Lionel Messi to do nearly everything.
The second half was all Argentina as well, though they found it difficult to break down the backline led by Gustavo Gomez. Despite managing eight second half shots, Argentina relied mostly on long range efforts, with five coming from outside the penalty area, and ultimately were forced to settle for the 1-1 draw.
The result moves Argentina into first place in the CONMEBOL standings for the time being, while Paraguay are also in good shape with a 1-2-0 record, sitting in fourth place with five points.