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Qualifying Stage
  • Juanpi (35')
  • Josef Martínez (53')
  • Lucas Pratto (58')
  • Nicolás Otamendi (83')

Pratto, Otamendi help Argentina rally to late draw with Venezuela

Argentina had to come from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw with Venezuela in their World Cup qualifying clash in Merida.

Goals from Juanpi and Josef Martinez saw the hosts leading 2-0 eight minutes into the second half but Edgardo Bauza's men battled back against the struggling hosts, who had taken just a point from their previous seven matches.

Lucas Pratto gave La Albiceleste a lifeline when he pulled a goal back in the 58th minute before Nicolas Otamendi levelled seven minutes from time to secure a draw.

The point means Argentina trail Uruguay at the top of the standings by a point heading into the ninth round of matches next month.

Argentina struggled early on and the absence of attacking threats such as Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero was clear to see.

But they still had the better of the chances as Lucas Biglia and Pratto both went close, while at the other end Salomon Rondon forced Sergio Romero to turn away his effort from the edge of the box in the 21st minute.

The dangerous Juanpi then saw his left-footed strike from just outside the box blocked before he broke the deadlock.

Juanpi scored his first goal of the qualifying campaign with a superb strike that gave Romero no chance as he rifled the ball into the top corner in the 34th minute.

Angel Di Maria then sliced an effort high and wide as the visitors went in search of a quick response.

And Venezuela could have doubled their advantage two minutes before the break but Jose Manuel Velazquez headed over from close range when he got on the end of a cross from Juanpi.

Another Juanpi cross early in the second half created an opportunity fro Oswaldo Vizcarrondo but, like Velazquez, he could not keep his header down and sent it harmlessly over the bar.

They did not have to wait long to double the advantage though as Rondon burst into the Argentina box and showed great awareness to cut the ball back to Martinez who made no mistake to slip the ball past Romero.

Argentina though hit back almost immediately through Pratto when he stabbed home from close range after his initial shot was blocked.

Di Maria and Pablo Zabaleta were denied as Argentina piled forward looking for an equaliser and it arrived with seven minutes remaining.

Di Maria swung over a corner and Otamendi met the ball to steer home from six yards out.