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Messi denied as Argentina held by Paraguay

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Argentina had to come from behind to draw 1-1 with Paraguay in a World Cup qualifier at La Bombonera on Thursday, and Lionel Messi had what might have been a winning goal disallowed in the second half.

A Nicolas Gonzalez goal brought Argentina back level after Angel Romero’s penalty put Paraguay in front at the home of Boca Juniors.

The result ends Argentina’s perfect start in its bid to qualify for the 2022 finals in Qatar, after Lionel Scaloni’s team claimed narrow wins last month at home to Ecuador and away to Bolivia.

It thought it had gone in front in the 58th minute when Giovani Lo Celso pulled the ball back for captain Messi to sidefoot low into the net, but the goal was eventually disallowed by the Brazilian officials for a foul by Gonzalez at the beginning of the move.

At least Argentina recovered from falling behind midway through the first half, when Romero — who plays in Argentina for San Lorenzo — converted a penalty awarded for a foul by Lucas Martinez Quarta on Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron.

The home side lost midfielder Exequiel Palacios to injury soon after, but his replacement Lo Celso delivered the corner for VfB Stuttgart forward Gonzalez to head in the equaliser four minutes before half-time.

After his disallowed goal, a frustrated Messi also had a free-kick tipped onto the crossbar by Paraguay goalkeeper Anthony Silva.

Paraguay remains unbeaten having previously drawn with Peru and won in Venezuela.

The sides are in action again on Tuesday, when Argentina plays Peru in Lima and Paraguay hosts Bolivia.

Thursday’s other game in South American qualifying saw Ecuador claim a second win in three outings in the round-robin tournament as Carlos Gruezo’s late penalty gave it a 3-2 victory over Bolivia in La Paz.

Neymar injured

The action continues on Friday with Brazil notably hosting Venezuela in Sao Paulo as it chases a third straight win in qualifying.

It will be without Neymar, who has not recovered from an adductor injury suffered playing for Paris Saint-Germain recently.

The results: Bolivia 2 (Arca 37, Martins 60) lost to Ecuador 3 (Beder Caicedo 46, Mena Delgado 55, Gruezo 88-pen); Argentina 1 (Gonzalez 41) drew with Paraguay 1 (Romero 21-pen).

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