Argentina held by Uruguay as Coutinho scores for Brazil

Suarez limps off but says just a cramp as both teams require points to secure qualification

Philippe Coutinho of Brazil celebrates his goal against Ecuador with teammate Willian. Photograph: Reuters

Philippe Coutinho of Brazil celebrates his goal against Ecuador with teammate Willian. Photograph: Reuters

 

Uruguay and Argentina drew 0-0 in an uninspiring but hotly contested World Cup qualifier in Montevideo on Thursday, a result that leaves both sides still needing points to guarantee a place at Russia 2018.

The home side had the better of the first half and Argentina were on top during the second period but neither team posed much of a goal threat in a typically tense encounter.

Uruguay’s Diego Godin had a goal chalked off for offside in the first half and Luis Suarez saw his 45-yard attempt to lob keeper Sergio Romero sail narrowly over.

At the other end, Lucas Biglia had a 30-yard strike deflected just wide and Lionel Messi saw a shot turned around the post after a brilliant, jinking run and one-two with Paulo Dybala.

Suarez, who recovered from a right knee injury just in time to play, limped off with eight minutes left but said on Twitter that he had just suffered a cramp.

“An important point to keep us going and dreaming of the World Cup,” he wrote on Twitter.

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli made his disappointment clear with the result.

“We played against a side that was always trying to shut us down ... It’s a bitter taste not winning,” he told reporters, adding that his side must be “more aggressive” in the final third of the field when they play last-placed Venezuela next week.

The draw means Argentina lie in fifth place in the South American qualifying table with 23 points, behind Chile on goal difference.

Uruguay, who have now gone six games without a win, are a point above them in third.

Brazil, the only one of the 10 teams to have already qualified for Russia, lead the table with 36 points after defeating Ecuador 2-0 at home. One of the goals came from Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho - he’s spent the last month injured and pushing for a move to Barcelona but declared himself fit to play- he showed his class with a sweat one-two move and finish.

The top four teams qualify automatically for Russia 2018 and the fifth-placed side goes into a play-off against a rival from the Oceania confederation.

In the region’s other games on Thursday, Artur Vidal scored a spectacular own goal as Chile lost 3-0 at home to Paraguay.

Vidal dived to head out a Paraguay free kick midway through the first half but his header soared into the corner of his own net.

Victor Caceres doubled the lead nine minutes into the second period and Richard Ortiz added a third in injury time.

Colombia drew 0-0 at Venezuela and remain in second place with 25 points.

Colombia host Brazil next Tuesday, while Uruguay face Paraguay in Asuncion the same day.

Two goals in a four-minute burst helped Peru beat Bolivia 2-1 in Lima to keep their slender hopes alive.

Edison Flores got the first for the home side after 54 minutes and then Christian Cueva then hammered home a second from 20 metres.

Gilbert Alvarez got one back for Bolivia after 71 minutes but Peru held on to leapfrog Paraguay on goal difference into sixth place, just two points behind Argentina.

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