Brazil’s fight­back thwarts Ar­gentina

Robben’s dou­ble seals 3-2 win for Nether­lands


BUENOS AIRES: Ten-man Brazil came from be­hind to snatch a 1-1 draw against arch-ri­vals Ar­gentina on Fri­day in a tense World Cup qual­i­fy­ing bat­tle be­tween the two South Amer­i­can su­per­pow­ers. A sec­ond half strike from San­tos player Lu­cas Lima sal­vaged a vi­tal point for Brazil af­ter Ar­gentina had taken the lead mid­way through the half thanks to an Eze­quiel Lavezzi strike. Lavezzi’s Paris Saint-Ger­main team-mate David Luiz was sent off for a sec­ond yel­low card in the dy­ing min­utes but Brazil hung on for the draw.The re­sult leaves Ar­gentina win­less af­ter three games of South Amer­ica’s marathon qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign, with CARDIFF: Ar­jen Robben scored twice to lead the Nether­lands to a 3-2 vic­tory against Wales in a friendly match in Cardiff on Fri­day. The Nether­lands, which failed to qual­ify for next year’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship in France, went ahead through striker Bas Dost’s header af­ter 32 min­utes. Joe Led­ley equal­ized for the hosts on the stroke of half­time, con­vert­ing a re­bound af­ter Nether­lands goal­keeper Jasper Cil­lessen par­ried a penalty by Joe Allen.

Robben re­stored the visi­tors’ lead nine min­utes into the sec­ond half, be­fore Wales lev­eled again on 70 through a header from mid­fielder Emyr Huws. But Robben won the match with his sec­ond goal in the 81st minute, rac­ing clear of the Wales de­fense and slot­ting past goal­keeper Owain Fon Wil­liams with a com­posed fin­ish. Wales only two points from a pos­si­ble nine.

Fri­day’s match at the Mon­u­men­tal Sta­dium in Buenos Aires had been de­layed by 24 hours af­ter a del­uge made the pitch un­playable on Thurs­day. Ar­gentina, miss­ing a glut of in­jured stars in­clud­ing Lionel Messi and Ser­gio Aguero, started the stronger against a Brazil side who wel­comed back sus­pended striker Neymar. Neymar how­ever was largely anony­mous for long pe­ri­ods as Ar­gentina got on top early on and opened up Brazil with ease on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. The only sur­prise was that it took Ar­gentina more than half an hour to get on the score­sheet. The goal came af­ter su­perb coach Chris Coleman, who is preparing for his team to play at the Eu­ros next year, was en­cour­aged by his squad’s dis­play de­spite the de­feat.

Wales was miss­ing its two big­gest stars in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ram­sey, through in­jury. “We scored two goals with­out Bale and Ram­sey, which is a big thing when you look at who was get­ting the goals for us in the qual­i­fi­ca­tion cam­paign,” Coleman said. “We are build­ing and th­ese lads need min­utes if they are to come with us to France.” Nether­lands coach Danny Blind was pleased with the re­sponse from his play­ers in the team’s first match since miss­ing out on next year’s cham­pi­onship. “It was a hard job to mo­ti­vate them af­ter we missed out on the Eu­ros but the team were fo­cused and put a lot of en­ergy in the game,” he said.— AP in­ter­play be­tween Ar­gentina’s pow­er­ful at­tack­ing front three.

An­gel Di Maria darted in­side on a jink­ing run near half­way be­fore re­leas­ing Gon­zalo Higuain down the right flank. The Napoli striker looked up and picked out Lavezzi with a su­perb low cross for the France-based star to ram past Alis­son Becker for 1-0 on 34 min­utes. It was no less than Ar­gentina’s bold at­tack­ing ap­proach de­served. Ar­gentina might have taken an early lead af­ter only two min­utes, when Fa­cundo Roncaglia drew a save from Al­li­son from a wide an­gle with loop­ing shot.

Mo­ments later Di Maria em­bar­rassed Luiz down the right flank, turn­ing the mid­fielder in­side out be­fore fir­ing in a low cross which flew across the face of goal. Brazil es­caped how­ever, with no Ar­gen­tinean at­tacker on hand to meet Di Maria’s cen­tre. Luiz might have lev­eled for Brazil shortly be­fore half-time but could only head over the bar from close range af­ter Wil­lian’s free­kick from the right. Ar­gentina started the sec­ond half in the same vein, with Ever Banega only be­ing de­nied a goal from a tight an­gle when his fierce low shot struck the foot of the post in the 46th minute.

But it was Brazil who struck next, get­ting on level terms through a clev­erly worked goal on 58 min­utes. Dani Alves curled a sublime cross to the far post with the out­side of right boot to pick out Dou­glas Costa, who headed firmly against the bar be­fore Lima smashed in the re­bound on the vol­ley. Buoyed by the goal Brazil looked the like­lier to grab a win­ner, with Wil­lian go­ing close with a shot de­flected over the bar. Manch­ester City de­fender Ni­co­las Ota­mendi went close with a late header which flew just wide. In the clos­ing min­utes Luiz was shown a red card for two book­ings within as many min­utes, but Brazil held on for the draw.—AFP

BUENOS AIRES: Brazil’s David Luiz (front) fouls Ar­gentina’s Lu­cas Biglia dur­ing a 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing soc­cer match in Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina on Fri­day, Nov 13, 2015. — AP

CARDIFF: Nether­lands’ mid­fielder Ar­jen Robben (left) vies with Wales’s mid­fielder Emyr Huws (cen­ter) dur­ing the in­ter­na­tional friendly foot­ball match be­tween Wales and Nether­lands at Cardiff City Sta­dium in south Wales on Novem­ber 13, 2015. —AFP

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