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Round-up- Messi and Aguero give Argentina crucial win

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BARRANQUILLA, Argentina, November 16 – Two-time World Cup winners Argentina scored a vital 2-1 victory in their 2014 World Cup qualifier against Colombia here on Tuesday.

Goals by two-time world player of the year Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero saw the Argentinians – who have not won the trophy since 1986 – come from behind and join Copa America champions Uruguay at the top of the standings on seven points.

Uruguay — World Cup semi-finalists last year — were not playing and instead beat Italy 1-0 in Rome in a friendly.

Messi, who has thus far had two disappointing World Cup finals campaigns, had called on his team-mates to raise their game after only managing a 1-1 draw with bottom side Bolivia last Friday.

However, the first half did not go the visitors’ way as first experienced defender Nicolas Burdisso was taken off on a stretcher in the 36th minute with what looked like a serious knee injury.

A minute before half-time it got worse as the hosts took the lead through Dorlan Pabon, his free kick taking a slight deflection on its way into the net.

Messi was at the heart of Argentina’s game and his endeavours paid off on the hour mark as he was quickest to react when Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina failed to fend off a cross and and the Barcelona star was on hand to level the scores.

Messi shrugged off being brought down time and again by the physical Colombian defenders and started the move that gave the Argentinians their winner goal.

He fed Gonzalo Higuain, but the striker’s shot was beaten out by Ospina only for Aguero to knock it into the net and give the Argentinians a much-needed win as they seek to reach the finals hosted by arch-rivals Brazil.

Spain salvage draw in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, November 16- David Villa’s goal in injury time gave World and European champions Spain a 2-2 draw at lowly Costa Rica in a friendly international football match on Tuesday.

Spain, hoping to bounce back after a 1-0 friendly defeat to England on Saturday, were listless in their attack in the first half of the contest, played at a rainy Estadio Nacional.

Their defence lacked sharpness, as they fell 2-0 down by halftime before rallying after the break.

Randal Brenes scored in the 30th minute for Costa Rica and Arsenal striker Joel Campbell added another for the hosts in the 41st.

Villa scored in the 83rd before grabbing the equaliser at the finish.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas made his 127th appearance for Spain, becoming the country’s most-capped player.

But his milestone was marred by an uncharacteristic mistake when he failed to control the ball in the area, allowing Brenes to gain possession and fire into an empty net.

Campbell made it 2-0 with a powerful shot past Casillas.

Spain, who have swept through their Euro qualifying campaign, have apparently found it harder to get the competitive juices flowing for friendlies.

Their defeat at Wembley was their fourth in a friendly since they won the World Cup, and they were clearly keen to avoid a repeat as they stepped things up in the second half after a spate of substitutions.

After the break they gradually seized control, Barcelona striker Villa threatening repeatedly before finally coming through.

He headed in the equaliser in the first minute of injury time to leave the hosts stunned.

Majstorovic happy to give Barry’s 2,000th goal

LONDON, England, November 16 – Sweden defender Daniel Majstorovic says he is happy to give Gareth Barry the credit for scoring England’s 2,000th goal after the Manchester City midfielder’s header was ruled an own goal.

Barry was initially credited with England’s 22nd minute winner against the Swedes in Tuesday’s 1-0 friendly victory at Wembley after meeting Stewart Downing’s cross with a glancing header.

But the goal was later awarded to Celtic star Majstorovic after replays showed the ball had taken a deflection off the centre-back’s head before creeping into the net.

Barry was disappointed that the landmark goal had been taken away from him, but Majstorovic is keen to give him back the honour.

“It was a good header. It was a good cross in and I was just unlucky that I touched the ball. Even if I hadn’t touched the ball I think it was going in,” Majstorovic said.

Barry added: “I just got told it’s going down as an own goal. I got a touch on it and it skimmed off the defender.

“It would have been great to score the 2,000th goal and I’m a bit disappointed.

“But I’m not a goalscorer and I won’t be crying too much. I won’t be thinking about it too much.”

North Korea cheers ruffle Blue Samurai

TOKYO, Japan, November 16 – North Korean football fans’ raucous cheers pushed the home side to victory in a high-voltage World Cup qualifier against their former colonial rulers, Japanese press said Wednesday.

North Korean supporters basked in glory after the 1-0 victory that left Japan’s press fuming at sometimes aggressive play from the hosts, who amassed yellow cards, including two — and a sending off — for Jong Il Gwam.

“Nightmare in Pyongyang,” said a banner headline in the Nikkan Sports, after the Group C match in which the Blue Samurai failed to shine.

“Repeated mistakes under pressure,” said a headline in a mass circulation Mainichi Shimbun.

Tensions were high for the match between the arch-rivals.

Japan does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, which still demands reparations from its former occupier for wartime atrocities.

The communist regime is widely despised in Japan, which still keenly feels the unresolved abductions in the 1970s and 80s of young Japanese citizens who were used to train Pyongyang’s spies in Japanese language and customs.

A capacity crowd of around 50,000 at the Kim Il Sung stadium were a key factor in the game, with only 150 Japanese fans allowed to travel to the match.

Thunderous cheers greeted every forward push from the home side, matched only by the shouts of disapproval against Japanese players.

The booing started before the game, with Japan’s national anthem drowned out by a crowd in no mood to listen, but eager to join in with their own anthem moments later.

Thousands of fans on one stand of the stadium formed a spectacular giant message board by holding up red and yellow cards to show Korean characters displaying messages such as “Win Korea.”

The match was the first defeat of the Blue Samurai in the 17 games played under Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who took command of the team in August 2010.

“I expected all that,” midfielder Kengo Nakamura told Japanese reporters after the game, referring to the crowd’s reaction. “But it was truly great pressure. Honestly, it was the first time I have experienced something like that.”

The North’s official KCNA reported the result of the match, hailing the home victory, but did not mention the team’s failure to progress through to the next stage of the World Cup.

The match results did not affect the final standing of Group C, in which Japan and Uzbekistan have already advanced to the final qualifying round, with North Korea and Tajikistan leaving the tournament.

“The DPRK team launched unilateral attacks in the first half of the match,” KCNA said, using the abbreviation of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“After the end of the match, Zaccheroni Alberto, senior coach of the Japanese team, told KCNA that the DPRK team is stronger than the Japanese team in spirit and courage,” it reported late Tuesday.

“Yun Jong Su, senior coach of the DPRK team, expressed satisfaction over the results of the match, saying his team could win the match with courage and confidence given by leader Kim Jong Il,” it said.

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