Argentina still winless without Messi
Argentina remain winless in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup after a 0-0 draw in a physical clash with Paraguay at the Estadio Defensores del Chaco.
Gerardo Martino's side lost their opening fixture against Ecuador 2-0 on Thursday, and a goalless game in Asuncion leaves them with just one point from a possible six.
In the absence of injured duo Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City, the goal-scoring burden fell upon Carlos Tevez, but the striker missed a golden opportunity to put the visitors ahead midway through the first half.
Ezequiel Lavezzi was also unable to make the most of two openings before half-time, and chances proved hard to come by in the second half.
In their search for a goal, Argentina left themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks, but Ramon Diaz’s men were unable to exploit the gaps and steal all three points.
It was a result that was a far cry from Argentina’s 6-1 thrashing of Paraguay in the semi-finals of Copa America 2015 and is sure to increase the pressure on Martino.
After a scrappy start to proceedings, it was unsurprising that the first chance of the match came as a result of a free-kick.
With 15 minutes on the clock, Sergio Romero had to dive low to his left to parry Derlis Gonzalez's stinging strike from a 35-yard set-piece.
Paraguay's momentum grew, but they were let off the hook when Tevez passed up a glorious chance in the 21st minute.
After Antony Silva's drop-kick ricocheted off the Boca Juniors striker, Angel di Maria dispossessed the scrambling Miguel Samudio in the corner and curled in a cross that the unmarked Tevez could only head over.
It was an unlikely source that eventually forced Silva into his first save of the evening, with Javier Mascherano's 25-yard effort held by the keeper six minutes later.
Dario Lezcano saw his venomous shot from the top of the box blocked by Romero in the 39th minute, moments after Paraguay had lost influential midfielder Nestor Ortigoza through injury.
Argentina subsequently became more of a threat, but Lavezzi was thwarted by two terrific stops on separate occasions from Silva ahead of the interval.
The visitors picked up where they left off after the restart, with Di Maria fizzing an attempt narrowly off target with 53 minutes on the clock.
However, Argentina were almost punished on the counter-attack by Diaz's side on the hour-mark.
Lezcano's poor first touch off a square pass from Gonzalez afforded Pablo Zabaleta enough time to slide in and get an important block on the striker's shot.
In the quest for their first goal of the campaign, Martino introduced Erik Lamela and Paulo Dybala.
The pair combined with three minutes of normal time remaining, but the Juventus striker showed a lack of composure as he blazed over from the right-hand side of the box.
The 2015 Copa America finalists must now wait until their meeting with rivals Brazil in November to try and win their first match in qualifying.