Quito, Sep 2 (IANS) Star forward Neymar helped Brazil to a 3-0 win over Ecuador, while talismanic Lionel Messi marked his return to the international fold, helping Argentina past Uruguay to the top of the South American qualifiers for the 2018 football World Cup.
Colombia and Bolivia triumphed at home against Venezuela and Peru, respectively, in the seventh qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup, reports Efe.
Brazil, playing their first match under newly-appointed coach Tite, climbed to 12 points, one behind second-place Ecuador, who have earned only one point in their last three matches.
Neymar, who secured a historic gold for Brazil in the Rio Olympics, broke a scoreless deadlock in the 72nd minute here on Thursday.
Gabriel Jesus made it 2-0 in the 87th minute and added another goal in stoppage time.
In La Serena, Chile, Messi’s deflected strike was enough for Argentina to scrape past Uruguay and make it five straight home wins over their neighbours in the World Cup preliminaries.
Messi finally got Argentina on the board after 42 minutes. After taking a nice touch to settle the ball at the top of the box, he shifted around and got an effort towards the goal that hit off Jose Gimenez and found the back of the net.
Argentina then managed to keep their historic rivals at bay despite being at a numerical disadvantage for the whole second half following Paulo Dybala’s sending-off on the stroke of half-time.
Colombia defeated Venezuela 2-0 in Barranquilla riding on goals by James Rodriguez and Macnelly Torres.
Rodriguez opened the scoring just at the stroke of half time and set up Torres’ goal in the 81st minute.
Torres’ goal came right after Venezuela’s Wilker Angel was sent off for a foul on Carlos Bacca, who failed to convert the resultant penalty.
Venezuela, with one point from seven matches, sit in the last place in the standings. Colombia have 13 points.
In another coaching debut, Angel Hoyos watched his Bolivian charges defeat visiting Peru 2-0.
Pablo Escobar scored on a free kick in the 38th minute and Ronaldo Raldes struck home with a header in the final two minutes of regulation.
The win gave Bolivia six points, to be eighth in the points table. Peru, with just three points, is just ahead of last placed Venezuela.