World Cup Qualifying - Palermo rescues Argentina

Argentina kept their World Cup hopes alive, but they needed a Martin Palermo goal deep into stoppage-time to secure a 2-1 win over Peru.

Gonzalo Higuain fired Argentina ahead on his international debut but Peru scored an injury-time leveller through Hernan Rengifo to stun the Monumental.

However, with rain lashing down and time running out, Palermo was on hand to stab home a corner from close range to spark uncontrolled scenes of joy - with Diego Maradona sliding across the turf on his stomach such was his relief.

With Ecuador losing at home to Uruguay, Argentina climb into the automatic qualification places but face a decider with Uruguay on Wednesday.

Maradona bowed to pressure and selected Real Madrid man Higuain and the decision paid off as the forward looked like Argentina's most likely source of a goal throughout, although he was somewhat profligate in the first half.

Argentina set up camp in the Peru half and after a number of bright moves were snuffed out, the energetic Angel Di Maria burst down the left and cut the ball back along the six-yard line for Higuain. The Real Madrid man came on to the ball and made clean contact, but somehow he slammed the ball wide.

A couple of minutes later, Higuain broke free of the Peru defence and into the box, but struck his shot into the ground and Leao Butron made the save with his boot.

Lionel Messi was at the heart of Argentina's attacking play but his only real chance came on 41 minutes when he sent a vicious drive a yard wide of the far post.

Peru caused Argentina real concern at the start of the second half, as a superb corner move from Nolberto Solano to Juan Vargas saw the latter crash a volley against the bar.

Maradona opted to recall Pablo Aimar from the international wilderness and the move paid dividends on 48 minutes as the midfielder created the opening goal.

His run from deep attracted defenders and he slipped a glorious pass into the path of Higuain and on this occasion his finish was an unerring, crisp strike into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Instead of pressing home their advantage, Argentina retreated into their shell and invited Peru into the game.

The conditions were atrocious in the final 20 minutes, as wind and rain lashed the Monumental, and Rengifo took advantage of some shocking Argentina defending to head home a leveller.

The goal sparked Argentina into life and Palermo, another player brought in from the wilderness, popped up at the far post to turn home a corner three minutes into stoppage-time. Maradona dashed across the field before sliding face first along the sodden turf and it was clear what the goal meant to the whole of Argentina.

There was still time for further drama as Peru hit the bar from the kick-off, but Maradona's side held on and are now in pole to qualify.

Diego Forlan scored a stoppage-time penalty as Uruguay claimed a 2-1 win at Ecuador. Antonio Valencia had given Ecuador the lead, only for Luis Suarez to level and all this before Forlan slammed home a superb penalty.

Ecuador drop from fourth to sixth in the standings and now trail Uruguay by a point.

Chile ran out impressive 4-2 winners in Colombia to book their place in the World Cup finals.

Salvador Cabanas and Oscar Cardozo were on target as already-qualified Paraguay won 2-1 at Venezuela.


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