BUENOS AIRES- Lionel Messi inspired Argentina to an emphatic 4-0 win over Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier at the Monumental on Saturday.
Messi scored one of the goals and had a hand in the others as he and strikers Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain virtually sealed victory with little more than half an hour gone. Angel Di Maria added the fourth 15 minutes from time.
The victory took Argentina to the top of the South American group with 10 points from five matches, one point ahead of Chile and two in front of Uruguay and Venezuela.
Argentina took 20 minutes to break Ecuador down before Aguero opened the floodgates.
Messi lay on the second for Higuain after a superb run in which he shook off three defenders and then scored his 23rd for Argentina following another run from halfway and a one-two with Higuain in a high-tempo 11 minutes that left Ecuador reeling.
“We’re always looking for the connection with our fans and today was impressive. We have to carry on like this, united to the end,” Messi told reporters after the crowd chanted his name.
Argentina have a bye in next weekend’s round of matches and instead will play arch-rivals Brazil in a friendly in the United States.