BUENOS AIRES, March 28 (Reuters) - Argentina, inspired by Lionel Messi, gave Diego Maradona what he described as a perfect home and competitive debut as coach by beating Venezuela 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday.
Messi scored the first goal and then set up the second for
Carlos Tevez before Maximiliano Rodriguez and Sergio Aguero
completed an easy win for the hosts.
Maradona, who began his reign with friendly wins away to
Scotland and France, was given a rousing reception by the crowd
when he came onto the field before the game at the Monumental
"This was better than I expected, reality has overcome
fiction," said Maradona, who since retiring as a player has
been treated for drug addiction, obesity and alcohol-induced
liver disease, at one stage spending 10 days in intensive care.
"I couldn't have imagined what happened today. It was
perfect. It's not easy to score four goals against Venezuela,
we had to work hard for it."
The win left Argentina with 19 points from 11 games in the
South American group, four behind leaders Paraguay. Venezuela
"They beat us categorically," said Venezuela coach Cesar
Farias. "It's difficult to defend a result like this."
Argentina depended heavily on Messi for inspiration and the
Barcelona player created their first real chance in the 25th
minute when he jinked his way to the byline but nobody could
connect with his cross.
The hosts went ahead one minute later when Javier Zanetti
burst out of defence, ran 60 metres and found Tevez who laid
the ball off to Messi in his favourite position around 30
metres from goal.
Messi cut inside, played a one-two with Tevez and scored
with a low shot into the far corner for his fourth goal of the
He then created another chance by threading the ball
through to Aguero, who rounded goalkeeper Renny Vega only to
see his shot cleared off the line by Gabriel Cichero
Argentina goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo had to wait until
the end of the first half for some action when he comfortably
stopped Juan Arango's long-range shot.
Two quickfire goals early in the second half ended
Venezuela's resistance as they slumped to their 16th defeat in
as many games against Argentina.
Tevez volleyed in Messi's cross at the far post in the 47th
minute for his first goal of the qualifiers, in which he has
been sent off twice, and Rodriguez scored with a weak shot
which wrong-footed Vega five minutes later.
Aguero completed the scoring in the 73rd minute.