Messi and Higuain were too good for Venezuela
Another Lionel Messi masterclass powered Argentina past a helpless Venezuela and moved La Abiceleste one step closer to World Cup qualification.
The visitors held their own during the early stages, but once Argentina found their rhythm the outcome only looked like heading one way.
Messi, Marcos Rojo, Pablo Zabaleta and Gonzalo Higuain all reigned shots in on Dani Hernandez's goal in the first 30 minutes, before Messi's astute first time flick set Higuain away to break the deadlock.
It was more of the same thereafter and Messi doubled his side's lead on the stroke of half-time after Chichero was adjudged to have handled in the box.
The decision was slightly harsh given that the ball struck the Venezuelan defender high up on the arm, but his movement towards the ball when in pursuit of Messi was deliberate and therefore the spot-kick just about justified.
Messi––playing his 100th game for Argentina at all levels––made no mistake from twelve yards, blasting high to Dani's left with the keeper still in mid-flight as it zipped against the rigging.
Alejandro Sabella's men went through the motions in the second half but always looked like adding to their tally when they upped it a gear, and inevitably it was their star man and skipper Lionel Messi who did just that on the hour.
His perfectly weighted pass cut the Venezuelan back line to bits, allowing Higuain to ghost in and instinctively toe poke home his second of the evening.
Replays showed the Real Madrid man was a yard offside, but that was academic as Argentina eased up well before the end.
They are now four points clear of Colombia at the summit of the South American World Cup qualification table and look a certainty to book at place at Brazil 2014.
Venezuela meanwhile fall to sixth in the table on goal difference after Uruguay had earlier drawn 1-1 with Paraguay, and coach Cesar Farias should be disappointed with the way his side were outclassed after a busy beginning.
Argentina were only occasionally troubled by the lively Salomon Rondon, whilst posing a consistent and concerted threat down the other end.
The fluidity of movement between Messi, Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi will have been particularly pleasing for Sabella, as would the contributions of Walter Montillo and Fernando Gago.
The two-time World Cup winners look to have a solid foundation to their team, and that only compounds the fact they have a player capable of single-handedly winning any game he plays in.
Argentina 3-0 Venezuela (Higuain 29' & 59, Messi (PK) 45)
Argentina: Romero, Zabaleta, Garay, Fernandez, Rojo, Gago (Banega 62'), Mascherano, Montillo,Messi, Lavezzi (Maxi Rodriguez 83'), Higuain (Palacio 79')
Venezuela: Dani, Alexander, Vizcarrondo, Túñez, Cichero, Rincón, Lucena, Seijas (Otero 57'), Arango(Gonzalez 75'), Feltscher, Rondón
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