Argentina edges Colombia 1-0
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - Argentina edged Colombia 1-0 on Saturday in a crucial World Cup qualifier, winning on Daniel Diaz’s goal in the 56th minute.
The victory improved Argentina to 22 points in the qualifying group, keeping the two-time champions on course for a spot in next year’s World Cup in South Africa.
The victory made up some way for Argentina’s previous qualifier, a humiliating 6-1 loss at Bolivia - coach Diego Maradona’s first major stumble since taking over the national coaching job in November. Argentina plays at Ecuador on Wednesday and Colombia is home against Peru.
Maradona introduced Javier Zanetti after the break and reverted from a three- to a four-man defensive formation. That made the difference.
"We made a mistake in the way we played and Colombia walked all over us," Maradona said about the first half. "I went off furious. Afterward, everything changed."
Maradona praised veteran midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron: "He ran around like a kid".
Added forward Carlos Tevez: A win in Ecuador will make us feel more comfortable and improve our situation."
A free kick from Lionel Messi seven minutes after half time hit the crossbar, but Diaz scored minutes later on a right-foot shot after Martin Demichelis flicked on Veron’s corner.
Despite producing a strong performance, the loss leaves Colombia on 14 points with five matches remaining and seemingly unlikely of securing one of the four automatic qualification berths.
With Fabian Vargas controlling the midfield, Colombia looked more fluid than an Argentina side struggling to find its rhythm.
The hosts lacked spark despite boasting attackers of the caliber of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Messi, fresh from helping his club Barcelona win the Champions League, Spanish title and King’s Cup.
Colombia started well and had an early chance in the 14th minute when Vladimir Marin forced a good save from Mariano Andujar.
A minute later Wason Renteria pounced on a mistake by Diaz, but Estudiantes goalkeeper Andujar, enjoying a stellar debut in the Argentine goal after taking over the No. 1 spot from Lazio’s Juan Pablo Carrizo, again stood firm to keep the scoreline blank.
Argentina’s first real chance was created when Veron released Messi, but the forward’s shot was pushed wide by David Ospina.
Nervous at the back and unconvincing going forward, Argentina was again under pressure on the half-hour when Radamel Falcao’s shot was diverted for a corner by Andujar.