Messi scores in his Argentina return; Gabriel Jesus lifts Brazil; Colombia win
Lionel Messi scored in his return from international retirement as 10-man Argentina defeated Uruguay 1-0 in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying action on Thursday.
Messi famously called quits on the national team after the Albiceleste's loss to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final this summer, but pledged his return just weeks later and without missing a fixture.
And the Barcelona superstar made it a happy homecoming in Mendoza with a fine strike in the 43rd minute -- the Argentina captain controlling, turning and firing low and hard past Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera after a strong deflection.
Argentina were made to contain their glee moments before the break, however, when Paulo Dybala was sent off for his second yellow card of the match for an aggressive challenge -- the sobbing Juventus star exiting the pitch while Messi and his teammates angrily protested with the referee.
Argentina, though, managed to fight off Uruguay's second-half advances despite being a man down to secure a table-topping win and ensure Messi a victorious comeback to the national team.
Meanwhile, Brazil began the Tite era with a 3-0 win against Ecuador in Quito.
A brace from Gabriel Jesus and goal from Neymar were the difference as the Selecao collected their first-ever qualifying win in Quito.
And it was Neymar who opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 72nd minute thanks to fine hustle from the new Manchester City signing.
Gabriel outpaced Arturo Mina to a ball played behind the lanky centre-back, cut inside and was taken down by a desperate challenge from Alexander Domínguez just outside of the six-yard box.
Neymar stepped up to the spot and calmly converted low and to Domínguez's right to give the Brazilians a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, Ecuador right-back Juan Paredes was shown a second yellow for a studs-up challenge on Renato Augusto.
With a man advantage, Brazil found their second three minutes from time -- Gabriel wonderfully flicking home a hard Marcelo cross from the left.
And the 19-year-old phenom added his second -- and Brazil's third -- deep into second-half stoppage time with a confident finish from just inside the area to hand Brazil -- now on 12 points -- a vital victory in the former Corinthians coach's debut.
James Rodriguez's goal and assist handed Colombia their third consecutive victory of the campaign with a 2-0 defeat of Venezuela in Barranquilla.
The Real Madrid star opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time -- receiving a pass in the box from Carlos Bacca, hesitating and calmly slotting past Venezuela goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez with his right foot.
James then set up Colombia's second nine minutes from time, cutting back onto his left foot and lofting a perfectly-weighted ball for Macnelly Torres finish at the far post.
The victory gives Colombia, who began the day in fifth place, 13 points in qualifying this cycle.
Paraguay shocked 10-man Chile 2-1 at the Defensores del Chaco stadium in Asuncion.
A sixth-minute strike from Óscar Romero was followed up three minutes later by a Paulo Da Silva goal to give the home side an early lead.
Arturo Vidal pulled a goal back nine minutes before the break, but Paraguay held on against the defending Copa America champions -- who saw Gary Medel sent off in second-half stoppage time -- for the surprising win.
Bolivia maintained their unbeaten record against Peru in La Paz with a 2-0 victory at the Estadio Hernando Siles.
Pablo Escobar opened the scoring seven minutes before the break and Ronald Raldes headed in an 88th minute cross to give the seventh-placed Bolivians the much-needed victory.
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