Argentina 1-1 Paraguay: Messi denied winner as hosts stay unbeaten

By Sports Desk November 12, 2020

Argentina continued their unbeaten start to World Cup qualifying with a 1-1 draw against Paraguay at La Bombonera on Thursday.

Angel Romero's penalty gave Paraguay a first-half lead, but his opener was cancelled out by Nicolas Gonzalez's header.

After falling behind, Argentina were dominant, and Lionel Messi had a second-half goal ruled out following a VAR check.

Lionel Scaloni's men were forced to settle for a point and are unbeaten through three qualifiers to top the CONMEBOL standings.

After a bright start, Paraguay took a deserved 21st-minute lead through Romero's penalty.

Miguel Almiron's strong run at the Argentina defence saw the attacker brought down by Lucas Martinez, and Romero stepped up to place the spot-kick into the bottom corner.

Argentina started to enjoy more possession but struggled to create much of note before Gonzalez equalised prior to half-time thanks to his first international goal.

Gonzalez met a good corner from Giovani Lo Celso, who replaced the injured Exequiel Palacios during the first half, to head in at the near post and make it 1-1.

The equaliser gave Argentina a boost and Rodrigo De Paul's long-range drive forced a save from Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva on the stroke of half-time.

Lautaro Martinez and Paraguay defender Gustavo Gomez squandered good chances shortly after half-time before Argentina thought they had the lead.

After a cutback from Lo Celso, Messi beat Silva despite a strong hand from the Paraguay goalkeeper, but the goal was ruled out for a foul in the build-up after a VAR check.

Messi went close in the 72nd minute, Silva tipping his free-kick onto the crossbar after Lo Celso was fouled as Argentina continued to push, but they were unable to find a winner.

 

What does it mean? Argentina extend unbeaten run

Now unbeaten in three World Cup 2022 qualifiers, Argentina also stretched their overall run to 10. They made a slow start in Buenos Aires but were dominant after falling behind and deserved all three points. Argentina were denied a third straight win to begin a qualifying campaign, something they have managed just three times before.

Lo Celso provides spark

Palacios' injury was unfortunate for Argentina, but Lo Celso's introduction just before the half-hour mark boosted Scaloni's side. The Tottenham attacker assisted Gonzalez's equaliser and set up Messi's disallowed goal, while he was a constant threat.

Paraguay continue to trouble Argentina

Since being belted 6-1 by Argentina at the Copa America in 2015, Paraguay have gone four games unbeaten in meetings between the countries. In World Cup qualifying, Paraguay have won three and lost just two of their past eight clashes with Argentina.

What's next?

Argentina make the trip to Lima to face Peru on Tuesday, while Paraguay host Bolivia on the same day.

Related items

  • Man Utd are never underdogs – Klopp responds to Solskjaer Man Utd are never underdogs – Klopp responds to Solskjaer

    Jurgen Klopp insists Manchester United can never be considered underdogs despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer making that pre-match claim.

    United boss Solskjaer takes his side to Anfield on Sunday with a surprise three-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

    The last time they sat top at this stage of the season was in Alex Ferguson's final year at the club.

    Amid his opponents' impressive 11-match unbeaten run in the top flight, Liverpool manager Klopp was surprised to see Solskjaer suggest a United win would represent a "shock" and an "upset".

    "I have been five years in England and United was never an underdog," said Klopp. "They cannot be. It is just like it is.

    "They are always a good team, always great players, always really good managers and coaches. It was always there and now they are top of the table. That is how it is.

    "They cannot be underdogs."

    Champions Liverpool have failed to win their past three league matches since thrashing Crystal Palace 7-0 a month ago.

    But Klopp is confident they are over their slump as the chance to return to the summit presents itself, while he also replied to another Solskjaer remark that caught his attention.

    He continued: "I'm really looking forward to this game, to be honest. I know Ole said that this is the best moment to play against Liverpool - yeah? Let's see!

    "We are now in a place where we want to be. We know what we have to do and what went wrong. We want to change. Now, we have to put that in place on the pitch. That is the situation.

    "These boys did not go for an excuse in one second that I was here. Not for one second. But that does not mean things cannot go wrong.

    "Obviously we did not do outstandingly well since mid-November. But who cares? We still have 33 points.

    "We have learned a lot from this season. The circumstances, dealing with the situation. It is not because of the boys' attitude. It's just because it didn't work out.

    "Still, we have scored the most goals in the league, which is absolutely crazy.

    "We just had to step a little bit back, work on the basics and get strong – as strong as we can be again. That's what we did. That is what we will do. I think that can work."

    Returning his focus to United, Klopp added: "Usually they change system against us. 

    "They played 10 times with four at the back and against RB Leipzig they played with five at the back, so maybe they will change that.

    "Those are things we have to think about - not who is the outsider. It is Liverpool versus United and that in itself is a massive game.

    "Wherever I would be in the world I would watch it definitely. This is the game!"

  • Man Utd have stopped scoring against the big sides – that must change at Liverpool Man Utd have stopped scoring against the big sides – that must change at Liverpool

    Manchester United's record against the so-called 'big six' of the Premier League this season reads zero wins, two defeats and two draws.

    They have conceded seven goals, six of them at home to Tottenham, and scored just once – a Bruno Fernandes penalty two minutes into that 6-1 hammering in October.

    Fernandes scored their previous goal in these encounters from the spot, too, in a 1-1 draw at Spurs last June. In fact, you have to go back to March 2020 and their 2-0 win at home to Manchester City, the last Old Trafford game played in front of a crowd, for the previous occasion that they scored a goal against a big-six team that wasn't a penalty.

    They might be top of the league heading into Sunday's showdown with Liverpool but, for a manager that made an early habit of extracting big performances against the best sides, that stat should be of serious concern to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

     

    BIG ZERO SIX

    Since the end of the 2019-20 shutdown, United have played seven games against the big six and won none of them, if you include domestic cup losses to Chelsea and City.

    In league football alone, they have drawn against Tottenham, Chelsea and City and lost to Spurs and Arsenal, with just two Fernandes penalties to show for it. All their previous three such games were at home and they have not scored in any of them.

    In their first 14 league games against these sides under Solskjaer, United won six times and lost only four, scoring 16 goals and conceding 13 – a decent record given their real problems with consistency.

    The strange thing is United's winless run against the best has coincided with a general upturn in form since the previous season restarted last June. Taking only results in that time into account, United have played 26, won 17, lost just three, scored 56 goals and conceded 30. That's the best record of any side in the league and seven points better than Liverpool.

    In fact, narrow that down to results against teams in the top half of the table in the same time frame, and United have lost the fewest games (two) of any side, with 21 points taken from 13 games, just three behind Jurgen Klopp's side.

    So, why the recent drop-off against the very best?

    Solskjaer's most dependable attacking weapons have been Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, all three of whom will almost certainly start at Liverpool, barring injury.

    They were all involved in their last big-six contest in the league, a 0-0 draw at home to City in December. Rashford managed only one shot all game and created no chances for anyone else; Martial, a late substitute, created one chance but had no shots himself. Fernandes, ever the fulcrum of United's attack, had four shots and created two chances.

    The previous game was a staid goalless draw with Chelsea that made the derby look positively thrill-a-minute. That day, with Martial banned, Rashford was more involved, with three attempts at goal and two chances created; he was outdone by Fernandes (three shots, four chances created).

    They don't exactly look like imperious figures, but they actually fall in line with their per-90-minute numbers for this season. On average, Rashford attempts 2.7 shots per game and creates 1.3 chances; Martial has 2.9 shots and creates 1.2 chances; Fernandes musters 3.6 shots and creates 3.4 chances.

    Put succinctly, based on this season's performances, Fernandes should be expected to create between three and four goalscoring opportunities in every league game he starts for United. In other words, he was bang on his average against City and Chelsea. Rashford's numbers are similarly close to the mean.

    United's best attackers, then, are keeping their performance levels consistent against the big six. They're just meeting greater resistance. That becomes clearer looking at expected goals.

    In their most recent three league games against these sides, United have had xG of 0.6 against City, 0.7 against Chelsea and a lowly 0.4 in a 1-0 loss to Arsenal. In those same fixtures in 2019-20, those figures were 1.6 (in a 2-0 win against City), 2.2 (in a 4-0 win over Chelsea) and 0.9 (in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal). Interestingly, though, Chelsea and Arsenal had higher xG numbers in those games last season, even though they suffered worse results, and City's only increased this term by 0.7.

    This reflects a general balancing out in these matches. They are, for the most part, more attritional and less unpredictable affairs settled by fine margins – exactly the sort of contest you'd expect between true heavyweights. United are not significantly under-performing each time; they're just not quite tilting the odds in their favour.

    How, then, might they change that against Liverpool? There is one simple way.

    SLAB EXPERIMENT

    United have one particular weakness, regardless of opposition: set-pieces. This season, they have conceded 11 goals from set-plays; only Wolves (12), Brighton and Hove Albion (14) and Leeds United (16) have a worse record. They have shipped four goals from corners, the same number as Liverpool, but the champions have only conceded eight times from dead-ball situations overall.

    At the other end, United have scored 10 goals from set-pieces, a tally bettered by just four teams: Aston Villa and Southampton (11), and Chelsea and Liverpool (12). Only Chelsea (34) have created more dead-ball chances than United (31).

    There is an argument to say they should have more set-piece goals than anyone else. It's an argument that centres around their captain – the man who might be the very thing United need to get back to scoring against, and winning against, big-six opposition.

    Since the start of last season, Harry Maguire has won 73 per cent of his aerial duels in the Premier League. That's the best rate of anyone who has contested at least 300 in that time. In fact, he has lost only 98 of the 341 he has been involved in, which is the lowest number of losses across the same period within that elite group.

    However, in an attacking sense, the world's most expensive defender doesn't seem to have his head on straight. Since the start of 2019-20, he has attempted 27 headed shots, hit the target with just nine of them, and scored with two. Of players with at least 20 headed shots in that time, only four have hit the target less often.

    On Sunday, Maguire will face a Liverpool side without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and possibly Joel Matip. He will rarely have a better chance of stealing a march at set-plays and, if he does, he could well end United's wait for a goal – and a win – against the best. Sometimes, those fine margins are the width of a forehead.

  • Nash eyeing championship but warns Nets must improve Nash eyeing championship but warns Nets must improve

    Steve Nash is eyeing a championship with the Brooklyn Nets after the arrival of James Harden, but the head coach warned his team they needed to improve.

    Harden, an eight-time All-Star, was traded to the Nets from the Houston Rockets on Thursday, joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn.

    The Nets (7-6) are set to contend for a first NBA championship and Nash said there was a huge opportunity ahead.

    "We want to win a championship, for sure. That's why we made the deal, that's what we're setting out to do," he told a news conference.

    "Having said that, we're so far from that right now so our expectations are to grow every day, to get better, to figure out who we are and what we are and how we fit together and where we can improve. It's a process.

    "You have to earn the right to play for a championship through the regular season and playoffs so those steps are still in front of us before we can say we're a championship team.

    "We're not a team that's running it back that's been to the Finals or Conference Finals even, we're a brand new entity that has to figure it out but that is the end goal and if we take the necessary steps and continue to improve and work towards that and commit to that process, why not? We have a great opportunity here with the players we have."

    With Durant and Harden, the Nets now have two players who have won seven of the past 11 NBA scoring titles. No Brooklyn qualifier has ever finished higher than fifth.

    Irving, Harden and Durant all rank in the top 10 in the NBA in scoring average (minimum 500 games) since the former's rookie season in 2011-12.

    Harden could make his Nets debut against the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.