| Pablo Aimar (right) and Hernan Crespo celebrate Argentina’s second goal against Venezuela during their World Cup qualifier in Caracas on Tuesday. (AFP)
Caracas: Argentina bounced back from Saturday’s disappointing 2-2 home draw against Chile to outclass Venezuela 3-0 in a one-sided World Cup qualifier on Tuesday and relieve the pressure on beleaguered coach Marcelo Bielsa.
Pablo Aimar set Argentina on their way when he started and finished a move in the seventh minute as Venezuela gave away a soft early goal for the second game running.
Two more goals in a seven-minute spell before halftime, from much-criticised forward Hernan Crespo and his striking partner Cesar Delgado, effectively ended the match as a contest.
Venezuela coach Richard Paez, whose team were unbeaten in 11 previous home games in a run stretching back nearly three years, was sent off in the second half for insulting the referee.
Bielsa was surprisingly kept on by Argentine despite their shock first round exit from the finals in Japan and South Korea last year but both he and some of his players have been eyed with distrust by the team’s supporters since.
The home draw with Chile, in which Argentina threw away a two-goal lead in the opening match of the qualifying competition, did nothing to boost public confidence.
With Venezuela keen to prove they are no longer the ugly ducklings of South American football, an upset appeared to be in the making.
The home team, who have never beaten Argentina, made a lively start but, as in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by Ecuador, gave away a sloppy early goal.
Delgado crossed from the right, Crespo’s first shot was saved by Gilberto Angelucci and Aimar, who had started the move by winning possession in midfield, knocked in the rebound.
Venezuela fought hard but were killed off by two quick strikes.
Crespo, a player singled out for criticism since 2002, headed in a Delgado cross in the 25th minute after left-back Jorge Rojas had lost possession.Seven minutes later, Delgado skipped past a succession of defenders to convert the third.
Venezuela enjoyed more possession in the second half but could not make their final pass count. Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron had a solid game but picked up a second yellow card and earned an automatic one-match suspension.
Under-fire Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa said that his team’s 3-0 World Cup qualifying win in Venezuela on Tuesday would bring some much-needed relief.
“We needed this result,” the introverted, eccentric coach, who surprisingly kept his job after last year’s first-round exit at the World Cup, said.
“The fact that we drew with Chile (2-2 on Saturday) increased that need.
“The game was over pretty quickly. It seems like a fair result and perhaps we could have won by a bigger difference.”
First-half goals from Pablo Aimar, Hernan Crespo and Cesar Delgado gave Argentina victory against a side unbeaten in 11 previous home games.
Venezuela coach Richard Paez, who has overseen a dramatic improvement in his team in the last two years, said he was proud of his team despite the defeat.
“The team never lost its style and never lost its identity,” he said. We’re getting better with every game.”
But Paez criticised the organisation of the sport in a country which still prefers baseball.
“We go into every game with a handicap,” he said.
“We’ve got to improve the infrastructure in this country.”
In another match in Santiago, two headed goals gave injury and suspension-hit Chile a 2-1 win over neighbours Peru in a bad-tempered qualifier.
Substitute Arturo Norambuena scored Chile’s winner in the 70th minute, three minutes after coming on. The goal was allowed to stand even though he appeared to climb on a defender.
Mauricio Pinilla had given Chile a first-half lead before Andres Mendoza equalised after the break with his second goal in successive qualifiers.
Chile have four points from two games while Peru, who beat Paraguay 4-1 on Saturday, have three. The game was littered with vicious fouls and flare-ups for which Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo took no effective action.
Chile were without defender Cristian Alvarez and striker Reinaldo Navia, both sent off against Argentina, and injured striker Marcelo Salas.
Peru created two good chances in a bright opening. Mendoza went close with a shot on the turn and then Nolberto Solano managed to force his way between two defenders but shot straight at goalkeeper Nelson Tapia.
The game then degenerated as referee Elizondo allowed the feet to fly. Chile went in front in the 35th minute as they exploited the Peruvian defence’s weakness in the air.
Rodrigo Perez sent over a long cross from the left, Pinilla, the third choice striker after Salas and Navia, beat two defenders to the ball at the far post and his header looped over the stranded Erick Delgado into the net.
Peru hit back with a brilliant Mendoza strike 12 minutes into the second half. Martin Hidalgo sent a long ball forward out of defence and the ball fell to the Club Bruges player, who fired a left-foot shot past Tapia on the turn.
Chile striker Hector Tapia had a goal disallowed for handball almost immediately afterwards after Peru again were caught out by a cross form the right.
In the 70th minute, Chile won a free kick from the right, David Pizarro floated it in and Norambuena headed home.