Reuters: Striker Gonzalo Higuain scored twice as Argentina romped to a 3-0 home win over Venezuela to stay firmly in charge of the South American World Cup qualifiers on Friday.
Lionel Messi, who was in scintillating form and created a string of chances, converted a penalty between Higuain’s goals and now leads the nine-nation group’s scorers with nine.
Argentina is top of the group with 23 points from 10 matches, four points ahead of Colombia and six in front of Ecuador.
Higuain broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when Walter Montillo and Messi combined to put him through on the right and the striker steered his shot past Hernandez.
Messi increased Argentina’s lead just before halftime with a penalty stuck firmly into the roof of the net after left back Gabriel Cichero had handled the ball. It was almost one-way traffic in the first half with hardly any work for goalkeeper Sergio Romero as Argentina peppered the Venezuela defence with chances, including a stinging shot from Messi that Hernandez could only push away. Just before an hour was up, Argentina scored a brilliant third in a lightning-quick break from deep in their own half, Messi threading the ball into the box and Higuain darting in to tap past Hernandez.
Five minutes later, Venezuela created their best chance when Jose Salomon Rondon crossed low from the left after getting the better of Pablo Zabaleta but substitute Romulo Otero shot over the bar. Otero had another chance near the end which Romero saved.
Higuain blotted his copybook with a booking that keeps him out of Tuesday’s visit to Bolivia but was substituted to a standing ovation.