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Argentina 1 Chile 0: Messi penalty the difference

A Lionel Messi penalty saw Argentina to a vital 1-0 win over Chile in World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

The Barcelona star struck from the penalty spot in the 16th minute at the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti in Buenos Aires.

Messi sent Claudio Bravo the wrong way with his spot-kick after Jose Fuenzalida had brought down Angel Di Maria in the area.

Chile had earlier had a goal correctly ruled out for offside before Nicolas Otamendi should have doubled Argentina's lead late in the first half.

Alexis Sanchez almost secured a point for Chile just after the hour-mark, only to watch his free-kick smash against the crossbar.

Despite being outplayed in the second half, the hosts held on in a huge result for Edgardo Bauza's men, who rose to third in the table and left Chile in sixth.

Argentina started with an attacking line-up, as Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Di Maria joined Messi in the XI, while Ramiro Funes Mori missed through suspension.

Chile were boosted by the availability of Sanchez, the Arsenal star having been under an injury cloud heading into the clash.

But coach Juan Antonio Pizzi was without Arturo Vidal (suspended) and the injured Marcelo Diaz.

The visitors thought they had taken a seventh-minute lead in Buenos Aires, Fuenzalida bundling in after Sergio Romero could only parry a Charles Aranguiz header from Sanchez's cross.

However, the effort was correctly ruled out for offside.

Argentina enjoyed more of the ball and went close to an opener through Di Maria, who forced a save from Bravo.

But moments later the game's only goal arrived, the Paris Saint-Germain star fouled by Fuenzalida as he tried to get on the end of a long pass from Javier Mascherano.

Messi made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending Bravo the wrong way for his 58th international goal.

The encounter settled for the rest of the half, but Argentina should have doubled their lead just before the break.

A Messi set-piece led to the ball falling for Otamendi, who somehow managed to blaze over from just yards out.

Both teams struggled to create chances immediately after the interval, although Messi did shoot well over following a Di Maria cutback from the left in the 61st minute.

Chile came agonisingly close to an equaliser four minutes later, Sanchez curling a 20-yard free-kick over the wall and onto the crossbar with Romero beaten.

Sanchez had another free-kick chance in the 78th minute – although Chile argued the foul was committed inside the area – but he put his effort well over.

The visitors were pushing for an equaliser and substitute Nicolas Castillo should have done better than shoot well wide from a Jean Beausejour cross as Argentina held on.