Argentina 1-0 Ecuador: Lionel Messi’s early penalty seals victory for hosts as Lionel Scaloni’s side enjoy perfect start to their World Cup qualifying campaign
- Lionel Messi put Argentina ahead in the 12th minute from the penalty spot
- The Barcelona star slotted home after Lucas Ocamps was fouled inside the area
- It had been almost a year since either team had played a full international
- The win extended Argentina’s unbeaten run to eight games under Lionel Scaloni
Argentina got their World Cup qualifying campaign off to the perfect start on Thursday when Lionel Messi’s early penalty gave them a 1-0 win over Ecuador in a lacklustre match in Buenos Aires.
The Argentine FA piped fan noise around the empty Bombonera stadium and the chants of ‘Messi! Messi!’ were vindicated as early as the 12th minute when he put Argentina ahead from the spot after Lucas Ocampos was fouled inside the penalty area.
Argentina had lost just one of their last eight World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and although they could not add to the scoreline they never looked in danger of losing in a scrappy game against limited opponents.
Lionel Messi’s penalty in the 12th minute ensured Argentina edged past Ecuador 1-0
Messi slots home from the spot to give the hosts the perfect start at the empty Bombonera
Messi punished Ecuador after Lucas Ocampos was fouled inside the penalty area early on
‘It was important to start with a win because we know how difficult the qualifiers are and all the matches are going to be as hard as this one,’ Messi said.
With the South American qualifiers twice pushed back from the scheduled start in March, it was almost a year since either team had played a full international fixture and Messi said that inaction contributed to the poor spectacle.
‘We hoped the level of play would be different but it has been almost a year since we played together, this was our first game back and the nervousness makes it complicated,’ the Barcelona striker said.
Messi, who endured a chaotic summer with Barcelona, celebrates with his team-mates
Argentina will be eager to kick on after starting off World Cup qualifying campaign with a win
The three points, however, were more than welcome for a side that hasn’t won a major title since lifting the Copa America in 1993.
The win, which extended Argentina’s unbeaten run to eight games under coach Lionel Scaloni, was also positive given that seven of the starting line up had never played a World Cup qualifier previously.
Argentina’s next game is on Tuesday against Bolivia in La Paz, while Ecuador return home to face Uruguay, who beat Chile 2-1 in their opener earlier on Thursday, the same day.
The top four teams in South America’s 10-team group qualify automatically for Qatar 2022 and the fifth-placed side goes into an inter-regional playoff.
Argentina have extended their unbeaten run to eight matches under manager Lionel Scaloni