Messi penalty gives Argentina winning start

Argentina got its World Cup qualifying campaign off to the perfect start on Thursday when Lionel Messi’s early penalty gave it a 1-0 win over Ecuador in a lacklustre match in Buenos Aires.

The Argentine FA piped fan noise around the empty Bombonera stadium and the chants of “Messi! Messi!” were vindicated as early as the 12th minute when he put Argentina ahead from the spot after Lucas Ocampos was fouled inside the penalty area.

Uruguay beat Chile 2-1 in their opener earlier on Thursday. Luis Suarez got Uruguay’s first from the spot with the aid of the video assistant referee (VAR).

Although Alexis Sanchez equalised for Chile, substitute Maxi Gomez made it 2-1 in injury time to give Uruguay a barely deserved win.

The results: World Cup Qualifiers (South America): Paraguay 2 (Romero 66, 81) drew with Peru 2 (Carrillo 52, 85); Uruguay 2 (Suarez 39-pen, Gomez 90+3) bt Chile 1 (Sanchez 54); Argentina 1 (Messi 12-pen) bt Ecuador 0.

Euro 2020 playoff semifinals: Georgia 1 (Okriashvili 7-pen) bt Belarus 0; Iceland 2 (Sigurdsson 16, 35) bt Romania 1 (Maxim 63-pen); Scotland 0 drew with Israel 0 (Scotland won 5-3 on penalties); Macedonia 2 (Kololli 16-o.g., Velkovski 33) bt Kosovo 1 (Hadergjonaj 29); Norway 1 (Normann 88) lost to Serbia 2 (Milinkovic-Savic 82, 102) (After extra-time); Slovakia 0 drew with Ireland 0 (Slovakia won 4-2 on penalties); Bosnia-Herzegovina 1 (Krunic 14) drew with Northern Ireland 1 (McGinn 53) (Northern Ireland won 4-3 on penalties); Bulgaria 1 (Yomov 89) lost to Hungary 3 (Orban 17, Zsolt 47, Nikolic 75).

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