Argentina has extended its unbeaten run to 29 games after Lautaro Martinez’s 29th-minute strike earned them a 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Colombia in Cordoba.
Martinez netted his 19th international goal from Marcos Acuna’s cross as already-qualified Argentina moved to 35 points from 15 qualifiers, with 13 wins from their past 15 games.
La Albiceleste were missing talisman Lionel Messi but welcomed head coach Lionel Scaloni back to the touchline after COVID-19 and he would have been pleased with his side who were largely in control throughout.
Colombia, whose stuttering qualifying campaign is in strife after seven games without a win nor a goal, struggled to retain possession and mustered few genuine chances on goal against a stubborn Argentine defence.
Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Angel Di Maria, who was dangerous throughout, curled a 16th-minute effort just wide of Colombia goalkeeper Camilo Vargas’ goal.
In the 29th minute, Vargas could not prevent Argentina going ahead when Inter forward Martinez trapped Acuna’s cross inside the box and lashed home, squirming under the goalkeeper’s grasp.
Out of nowhere, Colombia almost levelled on the stroke of half-time, with Luis Diaz setting up Miguel Borja who was denied by Emiliano Martinez. The new Liverpool signing’s follow-up effort was cleared off the line by German Pezzella.
Acuna forced a good save from Vargas early in the second half, while the Colombian goalkeeper made a better block with his outstretched right arm to deny Di Maria from range in the 65th minute.
Giovani Lo Celso, who left Tottenham for Villarreal on loan on deadline day, flashed a chance over the bar as Argentina survived a late scare from Johan Mojico’s shot which almost caused a Nicolas Gonzalez own goal, although that would not have counted due to offside.
Argentina should have grabbed a second in the 94th minute when Gonzalez broke in behind but opted to square for Paulo Dybala allowing the Colombian defence to clear.
What does it mean? Argentina tough to break down
La Albiceleste have kept five clean sheets from their past five home qualifiers and have an unbeaten run dating back to July 2019 when they lost in the Copa America semi-finals to Brazil. Colombia mustered five shots and only two on target, thus Scaloni’s side continue to be tough to beat.
Lautaro on fire in Messi’s absence
Argentina’s 24-year-old striker Martinez has scored in back-to-back games for his country in Lionel Messi’s absence this international window. Martinez has also netted four times in their past six qualifiers, having come under pressure at Copa America last year.
Tricolor struggle in front of goal
Seventh-placed Colombia’s woes could not be more evident as their scoreless and winless qualifying run extended to seven games, which equates to 10-and-a-half hours without a goal. Radamel Falcao’s 75th-minute injection failed to provide any meaningful impact.
Argentina will host Venezuela in qualifying in March, while Colombia have must-win qualifiers against Bolivia and Venezuela in the same international window.