Messi leads Argentina to victory over Ecuador
NEW DELHI [Maha Media]: Lionel Messi converted a first-half penalty as Argentina beat Ecuador 1-0 in their opening South American zone World Cup qualifier on Thursday. Messi put the hosts ahead in the 13th minute at La Bombonera after Lucas Ocampos was scythed down by Pervis Estupinan after a driving run into the penalty area. The 33-year-old now has 71 goals in 139 appearances for the Albiceleste.
The two-time World Cup winners looked comfortable thereafter - despite managing only two shots on target -- to ensure their campaign started without a hitch. Argentina will meet Bolivia in La Paz in their next qualifier on Tuesday while Ecuador will host Uruguay the same day.
Earlier on Thursday, Paraguay drew 2-2 at home to Peru and Uruguay beat Chile 2-1 in Montevideo. The top four teams at the end of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) qualifying tournament will automatically earn a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The fifth-ranked team will advance to an inter-continental playoff over two legs.