Peru 2 Argentina 2: Bauza's boys toil in Messi absence


Argentina toiled in the absence of Lionel Messi as they limped to a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw against Peru on Thursday.

Barcelona superstar Messi was absent for the contest in Lima having sustained a groin injury against Atletico Madrid last month.

There were few initial signs of a struggle as Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori drilled home his first Argentina goal in the 15th minute.

But Peru were the better side after the break and record goalscorer Paolo Guerrero made a captain's contribution with a fine equaliser just shy of the hour.

It appeared as though Edgardo Bauza's Argentina had stolen the win against the run of play through Gonzalo Higuain's cool finish.

There was time for late drama, though, as Funes Mori was punished for fouling Guerrero in the penalty area and Christian Cueva's emphatic penalty restored parity.

Argentina - who also drew 2-2 last time out against Venezuela - now have 16 points in the CONMEBOL section, three adrift of leaders Uruguay, while Peru - who will feel they deserved more than a point - still languish in eighth.

Sergio Aguero tested the waters early on with a superb 25-yard free-kick that drew a fine one-handed save from Pedro Gallese with the ball heading for the top-right corner.

Argentina were in front by the 16th minute, though.

Paulo Dybala's corner from the left was attacked by Aguero and fell kindly for Funes Mori, who had two swings at the ball before coolly slotting into the bottom corner.

Peru responded well to going behind and Guerrero tested Sergio Romero from a tight angle, before Cueva's free-kick brushed the roof of the goal.

Angel Di Maria was, unsurprisingly, proving a lively outlet for the visitors and his clever, low free-kick around the wall brought the best out of Gallese.

Peru were the stronger team in the early stages of the second half and deservedly drew level in the 58th minute.

Guerrero latched onto Miguel Trauco's sublime ball over the top and fended off Funes Mori to fire into the bottom right-hand corner.

Peru, now in the ascendancy, then had the chance to move in front but Cueva drilled wide from the edge of the area.

Raul Ruidiaz was next to go close, shooting wide after racing onto Trauco's throughball when he should have at least hit the target.

The hosts' failure in front of goal proved costly with 13 minutes remaining.

Pablo Zabaleta slipped in Higuain with a cute throughball to the right of the area and the Juventus striker clinically clipped his effort past Gallese.

But Peru were level again with six minutes remaining.

Javier Mascherano's woeful back pass was pounced on by Guerrero, who was crudely fouled by Funes Mori in the area and Cueva smashed his penalty high into the left-hand corner to earn a deserved point for Peru.