Argentina 2 – 1 Peru: Martin Palermo Gives Albicelestes Crucial Injury-Time Win
Argentina pushed to the attack straight from the kick-off as they searched for an early goal that would serve to settle some nerves.
Diego Maradona’s side almost went ahead in the 6th minute when a Gabriel Heinze header flashed wide after a precise cross from Pablo Aimar.
Los Albicelestes continued to pile heavy pressure on the Peru goal, and came close to scoring again through Gonzalo Higuain. The Real Madrid striker should have opened the scoring from six yards out but fired the ball over the crossbar.
Benfica attacker Angel Di Maria caused enormous problems for the Peru defence with his speedy runs, and he combined well with Higuain, but the effort went astray.
Argentina kept the ball between them, but although they constantly attacked the Peru goal they did this with little authority.
Five minutes before half-time Barcelona’s Lionel Messi almost put Argentina in front, but his venomous drive flashed inches wide.
The Argentines dominated their opponents, but went into the break without having broken the deadlock.
Maradona introduced Boca Juniors veteran Martin Palermo for Enzo Perez in the second half in order to add some spice to their attack.
To the surprise of the home fans Juan Vargas almost put the visitors ahead when a volley struck the woodwork.
But within seconds Argentina reacted, and debutant Higuain put the two-time world champions ahead with a powerful finish past Peru goalkeeper Leao Butron after a brilliant through ball from Aimar.
Peru should have been awarded a penalty in the 57th minute when a Ramirez shot hit the arm of Emiliano Insua, but Bolivian referee Rene Ortube waved play-on.
Minutes later a Vargas free-kick was tipped over the bar by Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Torrential rainfall at the Monumental stadium meant the match was a very scrappy affair, with a lot of tackling in the midfield and few goal-scoring opportunities.
To the devastation of the home crowd Hernan Rengifo drew Peru level in the 89th minute after heading home from point blank range.
However, two minutes into injury-time Palermo appeared at the back post after a cross into the area to hand Argentina a crucial victory.
But despite the victory, Uruguay beat Ecuador 2-1 in Quito, and for that reason Argentina will still need to win in Montevideo next week.