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Qatar 2033: Di Maria winner puts Argentina on brink of qualification

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Angel Di Maria’s goal on Friday put Argentina on the verge of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Qatar as Lionel Messi was on the bench for the 1-0 win away to Uruguay.

Messi was only called upon by coach Lionel Scaloni to play the final quarter of an hour as he made his comeback from knee and hamstring issues that saw him miss Paris Saint-Germain’s last two matches.

Di Maria’s sublime early finish at the Campeon del Siglo stadium in Montevideo was the difference between the sides in a match dominated by Uruguay.

The result means Argentina – who are unbeaten in 26 matches – will qualify for the World Cup finals if they beat Brazil on Tuesday and any one of Colombia, Chile or Uruguay fail to win.

“This team has great courage and when you don’t play well, you still have to win,” said Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

“Winning today was a huge step. We deserve it because we work very hard.”

The defeat left Uruguay in a World Cup play-off spot, behind Colombia and Chile in the final two automatic qualification position on goal difference.

Nahitan Nandez should have given Uruguay a fifth minute lead after Argentina failed to deal with a long throw into the box.

A ricochet saw the ball land at Nandez’s feet seven yards from goal and while Martinez did well to come out quickly and spread himself, Nandez’s finish was poor and straight at the Aston Villa stopper.

Uruguay were made to pay two minutes later as Paulo Dybala robbed a dawdling Joaquin Piquerez just outside the box and passed inside for Di Maria to stroke a glorious shot into the top corner.

It was Argentina’s only shot at goal in the first half.

Luis Suarez provided Uruguay’s main threat, as he has done so many times before, and fired a free-kick narrowly over.

On the half hour he hit an instinctive volley against ... before snatching at the rebound with his left foot and putting it wide.

Uruguay were piling on the pressure and Matias Vecino had a chance to restore parity at the end of the first half but shot too close to Martinez.

MESSI’S LATE CAMEO

After the break, Argentina continued to control possession without creating chances, while Uruguay were more dangerous, but without testing Martinez.

Substitute Papu Gomez finally got off Argentina’s second shot, just before the hour mark, but it flashed wide, while Martinez had to backpedal to tip over a wayward Facundo Torres cross that looked like it was dipping in behind the goalkeeper’s head.

With Uruguay pushing to salvage something from the game, Joaquin Correa had a pair of chances on the break for Argentina but could not take advantage.

Read Also: WCQ: Ighalo excited to be back in Super Eagles squad

Finally with a quarter of an hour to play, Scaloni summoned Messi from the bench but he had little impact on the game.

Uruguay substitute Agustin Alvarez had a gilt edged chance to snatch a draw six minutes from time but his header from five yards landed on top of the net.

Moments later, Martinez let Alvarez’s shot squirm between his legs before quickly spinning around to grab the ball behind him before it crossed the line.

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Ligue 1: Marseille stunned by in-form Brest

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Marseille missed the chance to cement their grip on second place in the Ligue 1 table on Saturday as Jorge Sampaoli’s side threw away the lead to lose 2-1 at home to a Brest team on a record winning run.

Brazilian international Gerson gave Marseille a first-half lead at the Velodrome with his second goal in as many games after playing a one-two with captain Dimitri Payet.

However, Brest drew level early in the second half as Romain Faivre scored a penalty awarded for a handball by Boubacar Kamara.

Franck Honorat then crashed a superb winner in off the underside of the crossbar as the side from Brittany made it six successive league wins, the best run in their history in the top flight.

Read Also: EPL: Masuaku fluke helps West Ham beat Chelsea in London derby

They are up to sixth, while Marseille remain second, 12 points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain who are in action later on Saturday at Lens.

Kylian Mbappe could be rested for a PSG side already missing the injured Neymar, but Lionel Messi — who won the Ballon d’Or for the seventh time on Monday — should start.

Marseille could drop down the table depending on results elsewhere this weekend, with Rennes and Nice both sitting within two points of the former Champions League winners.

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Bernardo stars again as Man City move to top of EPL with Watford win

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Bernardo Silva continued his scintillating form as Manchester City surged to the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable 3-1 victory at struggling Watford.

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring with a simple header on four minutes as the visitors threatened to run riot against the home side’s porous defence.

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Jack Grealish had several chances to double the advantage before the in-form Bernardo fizzed in a rebound from a narrow angle just past the half hour.

 

City continued to pose all of the questions following the restart and Bernardo grabbed his seventh goal of the season with a wonderful curler that flew into the top corner on 63 minutes.

For long spells it looked like a case of how many for the visitors but Watford did give the home support some cheer when substitute Cucho Hernandez acrobatically volleyed in a rebound 16 minutes from time.

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The result means City take advantage of former leaders Chelsea’s defeat at West Ham earlier in the day to move a point clear of second-placed Liverpool at the summit. Watford remain three points above the drop zone in 17th spot.

Pep Guardiola’s men will now turn their focus to Tuesday’s Champions League clash at RB Leipzig having already guaranteed top spot in Group A before hosting Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday. Watford travel to Brentford on Friday evening.

 

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EPL: Origi nets in stoppage time as Liverpool take advantage of Chelsea slip

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