Uruguay bolster qualifying hopes by beating Venezuela, Argentina beat Colombia


Young winger Facundo Pellistri stole the show in his second appearance for Uruguay.

Young winger Facundo Pellistri was Uruguay’s best performer in their win against Venezuela. AFP

Young winger Facundo Pellistri stole the show in only his second appearance for Uruguay as the two former World Cup winners bolstered their hopes of reaching Qatar 2022 with a 4-1 win over Venezuela on Tuesday .

Chile also gave themselves a lifeline as Alexis Sanchez scored twice in a 3-2 win over Bolivia in South American World Cup qualifiers.

But Colombia’s hopes are nearly dead after failing to score for a seventh straight game in a 1-0 loss to Argentina.

Goals from Rodrigo Betancur, Giorgian de Arrascaeta, Edinson Cavani and a penalty from Luis Suarez gave Uruguay a second consecutive win under new coach Diego Alonso who propelled them, temporarily at least, into the bottom spot in the automatic qualification in the only South American group.

But it was Manchester United youngster Pellistri, who spent the last year on loan with Spain’s Alaves, who shone brightest.

His mazy run created the second goal and his trickery won the penalty converted by Suarez.

With two qualifiers remaining at home to Peru and away to Chile, Uruguay’s World Cup fate remains in their hands.

They had a dream start in Montevideo as Cavani’s first-minute cross was half-cleared to the edge of the box where Betancur hit a sweet half-volley that clipped a heel and skidded past Wuliker Farinez in Venezuela’s goal.

Uruguay were dominant and doubled their lead in the 23rd minute after Pellistri showed great trickery to beat three down the right and cut the ball in for De Arrascaeta to head home from close range.

Cavani, who had a second-half goal ruled out for offside, all but sealed the win in first-half stoppage time with an opportunistic kick from six yards as the Uruguay players made the line up to finish off their weary opponents.

Pellistri continued to torment Venezuela down the right in the second half and won a penalty over Nahuel Ferraresi.

Farinez saved Suarez’s free-kick but referee Bruno Arleu ordered it retaken due to an encroachment and the Atletico Madrid forward made no mistake the second time around.

Josef Martinez scored a consolation in the 65th minute after a defensive error by Jose Gimenez.

Stunning Sanchez

In La Paz, veteran Sanchez scored a brilliant brace to revive Chile’s hopes of reaching Qatar after Thursday’s 2-1 home loss to Argentina.

Sanchez opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a vicious free-kick before scoring the killer third five minutes from time.

Marc Enoumba equalized for Bolivia in the first half before Marcelino Nunez gave Chile the lead again after the break. Marcelo Moreno completed the scoring late in the game but the defeat left Bolivia almost mathematically eliminated.

“It’s still not over, we have two important games left,” Sanchez said. “It was vital to win today in La Paz, against tough opponents.”

Former Barcelona and Manchester United star Sanchez, 33, rolled back the years with a stunning 30-yard free-kick that deflected viciously through the air before diving at goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.

Bolivia equalized in the 37th minute when centre-back Enoumba headed the ball in from a corner.

Chile took the lead 13 minutes from time with a well-worked move involving Sanchez and Mauricio Isla that was finished off by Nunez from the center of the box.

With five minutes remaining, Sanchez made a pass to the edge of the box, turned sharply, beat two players and then fired a low strike into the far corner.

However, Bolivia didn’t fold and Moreno sent a diving header from Henry Vaca’s cross into the far corner with two minutes remaining.

Colombia’s miserable seven-match scoreless record streak left them with little chance of qualifying for the Intercontinental Play-off.

Argentina dominated the entire game in Cordoba and deserved better than Lautaro Martinez’s 29th-minute winner.

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