Argentina held by Colombia in World Cup qualifier

Buenos Aires, June 8 (IANS) Sergio Aguero had two goals ruled out for offside as Argentina were held to a goalless draw by Colombia in a fiery World Cup qualifier at the Estadio Monumental.

Tensions boiled over in the 25th minute when Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain and Colombian centre-back Cristian Zapata were sent off by referee Marlon Escalante for a clash here Friday, reports Xinhua

Barcelona idol Lionel Messi, who has not played for a month due to a thigh injury, was introduced as a second-half substitute but struggled to make an impact. He did however play a role in Aguero’s disallowed 72nd-minute strike.

Replays showed the Manchester City forward’s goal should have stood after Messi was incorrectly ruled to have been involved from an offside position.

The result leaves Argentina with 25 points from 12 matches in the South America zone standings, five points ahead of second-placed Colombia on 20 points. Ecuador are third, also on 20 points but with an inferior goal difference.

In other Conmebol qualifiers Friday, Bolivia drew 1-1 at home to Venezuela, Chile overcame Paraguay 2-1 while Peru defeated Ecuador 1-0.

Argentina can guarantee their passage to the World Cup finals in Brazil next year by defeating Ecuador in Quito, Tuesday, while Colombia will all but assure their place with victory over Peru in Barranquilla.

In Tuesday’s other matches, Chile host Bolivia while Uruguay travel to Venezuela in a game the reigning Copa America champions cannot afford to lose.

The top-four South American teams will earn direct qualification to the 2014 World Cup while fifth will play-off for a place against the fifth-ranked team from Asia.

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