Brazil extends lead, Messi goal lifts Argentina

Brazil vs Uruguay

March 24: A Paulinho brace helped Brazil to a 4-1 victory over Uruguay in a clash of the top two teams in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

Uruguay were awarded a penalty on nine minutes when Alisson took down Edinson Cavani after the PSG striker had beaten the Brazil keeper to a chested back-pass from left-back Marcelo.

Cavani then stepped up and powered his shot low and to the right of Alisson to give the home side a 1-0 advantage.

Paulinho scored the first of his goals to put Brazil level in the 19th minute — the Guangzhou Evergrande man rifling home from distance after picking up the ball unmarked.

Paulinho put Brazil in front after the break, pouncing onto a spilled save of a Roberto Firmino shot and punching home from close range for his third goal in as many games for his country.

Neymar then sealed the points in the 75th — the Barcelona superstar racing onto a lobbed through ball behind the defence and chipping over goalkeeper Martin Silva who’d come out of his net.

And Paulinho added his third just before the final whistle with a close chested finish from a cross.

The win puts Brazil, now on 30 points from 13 matches, in a commanding lead ahead of the second-placed Uruguayans, who have 23.

Argentina v Chile

Lionel Messi converted a penalty as Argentina defeated defending Copa America champions Chile 1-0 in Buenos Aires.

The Albiceleste rose to third in the CONMEBOL table with victory, and it was the Barcelona superstar who gave them the points.

Angel Di Maria went down in the box after minimal contact from Chile defender Jose Fuenzalida, setting the stage for Messi, who missed his penalty attempt in the 2016 Copa America final against the Chileans, who then sent Claudio Bravo the wrong way for the game’s only goal.

Colombia needed a late James Rodriguez goal to beat a resolute Bolivia 1-0 in Baranquilla.

Colombia, who came into the day a point outside the qualifying zone, needed a victory against ninth-placed Bolivia to keep pace with the top-five teams.

And Jose Pekerman’s men picked up the points in the 83rd minute through captain Rodriguez. Juan Cuadrado won a penalty just inside the box and the Real Madrid star slotted home the rebound after his initial penalty was saved back into his path.

 Paraguay defeated sliding Ecuador to keep their qualification hopes alive with a 2-1 win in Asuncion.

Bruno Valdez put the hosts in front in the 12th minute with a header from close range after a set piece. Junior Alonso then sealed the points just after the hour mark, firing home a rebound from close range after Esteban Dreer saved Cecilio Dominguez’s initial effort.

A Felipe Caicedo penalty in the 70th minute gave Ecuador some hope, but there would be no comeback on the night.

Peru salvaged a 2-2 draw against last-placed Venezuela in Monagas.

Mikel Villanueva put the home side up after 24 minutes, before Romulo Otero doubled their advantage on the night.

But second-half goals from Andre Carrillo (46th) and Paolo Guerrero (64th) earned the Peruvians a share of the points.ESPN