Argentina vs. Peru Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Argentina gave their fans something to remember in the last home match of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, turning in an astonishing display of attacking invention and potency to down Peru 3-1. Ezequiel Lavezzi's two goals helped the Albiceleste take the lead after falling behind to Claudio Pizarro's gem before Rodrigo Palacio rounded off the victory with his side's third of the evening.
Saturday's clash at the Monumental Stadium was a dead rubber, since Argentina had already booked their place in the World Cup finals in the previous round of matches. Peru, meanwhile, were left without a chance of reaching the qualifying spots, and were playing for pride in Buenos Aires.
If the game was meaningless, however, someone had obviously forgot to tell the players, who gave everything in a high-octane clash.
Hit with the absences of stars like Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Javier Mascherano, Argentina nevertheless dominated early possession. The Albiceleste, however, lacked some of their usual fluency around the opposition area, with several openings going awry. Peru began the match waiting for their rivals to make mistakes and hit on the counter, a tactic that paid dividends after 22 minutes.
A ball over the top found Claudio Pizarro blissfully unmarked, after Federico Fernandez lost the veteran striker. Sergio Romero advanced erratically and without conviction, but could only watch as El Conquistador launched a perfect lob that sailed over the Monaco keeper and into the net.
There was barely time for the Inca to celebrate before the score was levelled. Di Maria's corner was met strongly in the air by Fernandez, keen to atone for his error in the goal. Diego Penny could not hold the header, and Ezequiel Lavezzi was on hand to poke home the rebound and restore parity.
Argentina continued dictating the tempo, with Pablo Zabaleta forcing Penny into action. The goalkeeper, however, was powerless to stop a second goal that was little short of a work of art.
Rodrigo Palacio advanced through the Peru half with the ball at his feet before laying off to Angel Di Maria. Argentina's captain for the night barely glanced at his team-mate as he returned the favour with a glorious blind pass, leaving Palacio free on the right. A quick cross from the Inter man found the Inca defence inexistent and Lavezzi ready and waiting to convert first time and give his side the lead.
There were more fireworks to come just after half-time. Sergio Aguero showed brilliant vision to pick out Marcos Rojo steaming down the left wing, his looped pass catching out Koichi Aparicio and leaving the full-back free on the byline. Rojo crossed low, and a neat flick by Palacio eluded Penny and capped another stunning collective move by the hosts.
The Albiceleste kept searching for the net, and Peru must have been grateful that Messi and Higuain were not present to pile on the pain. Aguero almost connected with a spectacular diving header, while another brilliant cross-field pass from Di Maria found Lavezzi, whose low centre was turned agonisingly into the side-netting by Palacio.
The chances were coming thick and fast. Di Maria's nonchalant lob was extremely unlucky to find the crossbar, after the Real Madrid star had been fed by a superb individual play from the electric Lavezzi. At the other end, an impressive run from Cristian Benevente caught Argentina off guard, and failed to finish by the smallest of margins.
The Albiceleste defence was not matching the excellence of those up front. Peru once more found a way to barge through at the back, and Luis Ramirez should have hit the target with a thunderous drive. Despite ample opportunities though, there were no further goals, and Argentina coasted through the final minutes to assure themselves of first place in the CONMEBOL standings.
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