BUENOS AIRES - Argentina, inspired by Lionel Messi, gave Diego Maradona what he described as a perfect home and competitive debut as coach by beating Venezuela 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday. Messi scored the first goal and then set up the second for Carlos Tevez before Maximiliano Rodriguez and Sergio Aguero completed an easy win for the hosts. Maradona, who began his reign with friendly wins away to Scotland and France, was given a rousing reception by the crowd when he came onto the field before the game at the Monumental stadium. "This was better than I expected, reality has overcome fiction," said Maradona, who since retiring as a player has been treated for drug addiction, obesity and alcohol-induced liver disease, at one stage spending 10 days in intensive care. "I couldn't have imagined what happened today. It was perfect. It's not easy to score four goals against Venezuela, we had to work hard for it." The win left Argentina with 19 points from 11 games in the South American group, four behind leaders Paraguay. Venezuela have 10. "They beat us categorically," said Venezuela coach Cesar Farias. "It's difficult to defend a result like this." MESSI INSPIRATION Argentina depended heavily on Messi for inspiration and the Barcelona player created their first real chance in the 25th minute when he jinked his way to the byline but nobody could connect with his cross. The hosts went ahead one minute later when Javier Zanetti burst out of defence, ran 60 metres and found Tevez who laid the ball off to Messi in his favourite position around 30 metres from goal. Messi cut inside, played a one-two with Tevez and scored with a low shot into the far corner for his fourth goal of the qualifiers. He then created another chance by threading the ball through to Aguero, who rounded goalkeeper Renny Vega only to see his shot cleared off the line by Gabriel Cichero Argentina goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo had to wait until the end of the first half for some action when he comfortably stopped Juan Arango's long-range shot. Two quickfire goals early in the second half ended Venezuela's resistance as they slumped to their 16th defeat in as many games against Argentina. Tevez volleyed in Messi's cross at the far post in the 47th minute for his first goal of the qualifiers, in which he has been sent off twice, and Rodriguez scored with a weak shot which wrong-footed Vega five minutes later. Aguero completed the scoring in the 73rd minute.
29 March 2009
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