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Otamendi and Zabaleta solid in Argentina draw

Nicolas Otamendi and Pablo Zabaleta both turned in accomplished 90 minute performances to help Argentina to a clean sheet in Paraguay.

Four days on from the Albiceleste’s shock 2-0 defeat to Ecuador, Gerardo Martino’s side were held to a goalless draw by Paraguay in the second game of World Cup qualifying.

Martin Demichelis was an unused substitute in a game where former City striker Carlos Tevez led the line for the Kun Aguero and Leo Messi-less World Cup finalists.

It was a game Argentina dominated, especially in the first half but Tevez and Angel Di Maria both spurned chances to open the scoring before the interval.

Argentina were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty in the early minutes of the second half as Tevez appeared to be elbowed by Victor Caceres in the area but Uruguayan referee Cunha waved away the protests.

Tevez’s influence faded in the second period and Paraguay, eyeing a valuable point, closed ranks and may have actually won the game had Zabaleta not slid in to turn away Lezcano’s goalbound effort late on.

Thanks to that timely intervention, it finished in a goalless stalemate which leaves Argentina with just one point from their opening two games of qualifying.

Goal.com awarded Zabaleta three a half stars for his performance, praising his “vital last ditch blocks”.

Otamendi received three stars in their player ratings piece: “Physical presence at the back which really heped to combat the presence of Barrios. Read the game very well and proved an impenetrable wall in defence.”

Next up for Argentina it’s Brazil at home in November and the Selecao were also in action on Tuesday night.

Fernandinho was again an unused substitute for Dunga’s side as they recorded their first win in qualifying – a 3-1 victory over Venezuela in Fortaleza thanks to a Willian brace and a goal from Ricardo Oliveira. 

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