Lionel Messi scored a penalty but Argentina missed out on the chance to take over the top spot of the South American World Cup qualifying from rivals Brazil after a 1-1 draw with Chile on Thursday.
Messi also snipped the woodwork and forced three impressive saves out of Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo but Alexis Sanchez earned the dogged visitors a point in Santiago del Estero.
The draw leaves Argentina a point behind Brazil, the only remaining side with a perfect qualifying record, who host Ecuador on Friday, aso Naija reports.
Chile is down in sixth, still two points off the qualification place having won only one of their five matches so far.
Argentina captain Messi said he was happy with the result, despite failing to win.
“The team had a good dynamic, it wasn’t easy playing again after so much time,” he said. It was more than six months since the last round of qualifiers after two matchdays were postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a special match given it was the first without Diego” Maradona, the legendary 1986 World Cup-winning captain who died in November.
Argentina was on top, though, and the hosts were awarded a penalty following a VAR check when Guillermo Maripan recklessly brought down Lautaro Martinez in the box.
Messi casually rolled the ball low to the left of former Barcelona and Manchester City keeper Bravo, who dived the wrong way on 24 minutes.
The lead lasted only 12 minutes before Inter Milan forward Sanchez tapped home into an empty net from four yards out after a stretching Gary Medel turned Charles Aranguiz’s freekick back across goal.