Argentina were held to a 1-1 draw in their South American Qualifier for the 2022 FIFA World Cup at La Bombonera by Paraguay. The riveting stalemate saw the hosts being made to work for the point by a well-drilled opposition as Lionel Messi was denied what would've been a game-winner by VAR.
The first half saw plenty of chances created by both sides, but neither team was very clinical in their approach. Only two of Argentina's seven shots hit the target, while Paraguay's only shot on target was Romero's spot-kick.
The visitors only enjoyed 31% possession in the first 45 minutes, but as we have seen far too often, higher possession doesn't automatically guarantee a favourable result. Paraguay drew first blood in the 21st minute after Miguel Almirón was fouled in the box by Nicolas Otamendi and Ángel Romero calmly dispatched the ball into the back of the net.
La Albiceleste started to threaten the visitors after going behind but struggled to find their way past a stubborn defence, in part due to their own sloppy passing in the final third. Exequiel Palacios, who was playing well in midfield, picked up an injury and had to be taken off in the 29th minute with Giovani Lo Celso coming in.
The Tottenham Hotspur star made an instant impact and delivered a lovely ball from the corner which was headed in by Nicolás González in equally wonderful fashion.
Argentina started the second half on the front foot and almost went ahead in the 60th minute through captain Lionel Messi, only for the goal to be chalked off after a lengthy VAR review.
The hosts tightened the screws after this and played the last 30 minutes of the game with renewed energy. Messi's free-kick was deflected behind for a corner by the 36-year-old Antony Silva, who found himself much more occupied after the break.
Here are the five talking points from the game, which saw Argentina stretch their unbeaten run across all competitions to 10 games.
#5 Giovani Lo Celso makes an instant impact
Giovani Lo Celso came on in the 29th minute after an unfortunate injury to Palacios, and just minutes later set up Argentina's only goal of the game through an exquisite delivery from a corner. His pass was met with a powerful header by Nicolás González.
The player found himself in the thick of things in the midfield after the break as well. He almost picked up his second assist of the game in the 60th minute after linking well with Lionel Messi, who made the net bulge with a first-time finish. However, VAR intervened and disallowed the goal after the referee determined that a Paraguayan player had been fouled in the build-up.
Lo Celso was part of most moves after coming on and was composed with the ball at his feet. He could've had an even greater impact if he'd been given a place in the starting XI.
#4 Argentina were wasteful in front of goal
In the first half, both sides fought well for the ball and we saw two goals being scored before the whistle. In the second half, for the most parts, there was one-way traffic in terms of attack, as Paraguay allowed Argentina to move the ball forward and preferred to sit back and defend.
In both halves, the wastefulness of Argentinean attackers was there for all to see as they failed to make anything out of their 69% possession. By the time the final whistle was blown, the hosts had recorded 16 shots on target, with only five of them hitting the target.
Messi's free-kick that was tipped over by Silva onto the crossbar was the closest they came to scoring in the second half. They gave away possession in dangerous positions, and had to be content with a draw when they could've easily had the win.
Also Read: Top 10 quotes on Lionel Messi