World champions Argentina rested Lionel Messi but still enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over 10-man Bolivia in La Paz on Tuesday to maintain their winning start to South American World Cup qualifying.
Messi, who has had a hectic schedule with his club Inter Miami, watched his teammates from the bench but was not listed as a substitute, having complained of tiredness after scoring the winner in Thursday’s 1-0 victory over Ecuador.
Despite the absence of their talisman, Lionel Scaloni’s side had too much firepower for Bolivia with goals from Enzo Fernandez, Nicolas Tagliafico and Nicolas Gonzalez securing the victory.
Chelsea midfielder Fernandez went close with a wonderful effort from 30 yards out that was heading into the top corner before Bolivia keeper Guillermo Viscarra tipped it over.
Viscarra then did well again to keep out a near post drive from Julian Alvarez, who had taken advantage of some sloppy defending.
The lively Alvarez had a hand in Argentina’s opener in the 31st minute, feeding Angel Di Maria, whose low cross was turned in by Fernandez, who had made a perfectly timed run into the box.
Eight minutes later, Bolivia’s task got even tougher when Roberto Fernandez was sent off for an over-the-top challenge on Cristian Romero.
Argentina went in at the break with a 2-0 lead after Tagliafico met a floated Di Maria free-kick with a header that looped over Viscarra.
The three-time World Cup winners were in total control after the break with Alvarez hitting the post in the 70th minute and Viscarra kept busy by efforts from Rodrigo De Paul and Di Maria.
Fernandez wrapped up the victory seven minutes from the end with a left-footed drive after more hesitant defending from the home side.
Later on Tuesday, Ecuador host Uruguay, Venezuela take on Paraguay, Colombia travel to Chile and Brazil are in Peru.