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Riquelme stars in Argentina win

Midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme, an outcast at his club Villarreal, scored two majestic free kicks to give Argentina a 2-0 win over Chile in their opening World Cup qualifier.

football Updated: Oct 14, 2007 19:51 IST

Midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme, an outcast at his club Villarreal, scored two majestic free kicks to give Argentina a 2-0 win over Chile in their opening World Cup qualifier on Saturday.

Riquelme, who has not played for his Spanish club this season after falling out with coach Manuel Pellegrini, curled his first effort into the top right-hand corner from the edge of the area in the 27th minute.

The mercurial midfielder produced an even more impressive shot from around 30 metres to increase Argentina's lead in the 45th minute and upstage team mate Lionel Messi.

Chile's problems increased when defender Cristian Alvarez was sent off in the 54th minute for crashing into Javier Mascherano.

"I was in luck," Riquelme told reporters. "The important thing is that Argentina keep winning."

Argentina coach Alfio Basile said he was always confident in Riquelme.

"People can think what they like about Riquelme," Basile said. "When I selected him, I knew he had been training well.

"A player of his standard is not going to forget how to play football."

UNPHAPPY HOMECOMING

The match was an unhappy homecoming for Chile's Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, who was in charge of Argentina from 1998 to 2004.

"The performance in general is not one which we can be satisfied about," he said after his first competitive game as Chile coach.

Chile bravely took the game to the hosts early on but failed to create any clear-cut chances, apart from a run and shot from Humberto Suazo which flew wide.

Riquelme, whose last game was in the 3-0 defeat by Brazil in the Copa America in July, had Argentina's best effort with a 25-metre shot in the seventh minute before firing them ahead.

Maxi Rodriguez and Carlos Tevez both went close for Argentina before Riquelme struck again on the stroke of halftime.

Riquelme had a chance to complete a hat-trick of free kicks early in the second half but this time his shot flew high and wide.

After Alvarez's dismissal, Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was lucky not to be sent off as well when he escaped with a yellow card for rushing out of his area and upending Messi.

Riquelme rolled the resulting free kick to Messi, whose deflected shot hit the post.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Rio de Janeiro)