Argentina draw with Paraguay, still winless in World Cup qualifying
Argentina remain without a win in their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign after drawing a blank in Paraguay.
Gerardo Martino's men followed up their 2-0 home defeat to Ecuador last week with a 0-0 draw in Asuncion on their travels.
A performance that would have left Martino players frustrated was almost salvaged by a late winner but substitute Paulo Dybala, on his debut, skied a late chance.
Argentina were without injured star forwards Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, and it showed.
The experienced Carlos Tevez led the attacking line, but his days as a frequent scorer for his country have long passed, and a spurned headed opportunity midway through the first half proved costly.
While the former Manchester United and Juventus forward frequently carried a threat, he lacked substantial support. Tevez made way for Dybala with just over 15 minutes remaining, having taken a heavy knock to his face in a challenge with Victor Caceres.
Tevez had warned Argentina needed to improve their attitude for this match, saying it was lacking against Ecuador, and the Boca Juniors player was always busy, looking to bring others into play and put himself in dangerous positions.
Paraguay had failed to beat Argentina in their last five encounters, conceding 20 goals in that run, which included a 6-1 thrashing in the semi-finals of the Copa America in Chile this summer.
THE BEST OF ESPN FC
- Bell: Liverpool fans make themselves heard
- Cox: Leicester improving | Why Poch should stay
- Okwonga: Man United's market | City's title hopes
- Laurens: PSG's pre-UCL issues | Hertha's curse
- Highlights (U.S. only): Stuttgart 1-3 BVB
- FC TV: Champions League W2W4 | LVG wrong
- News | Transfer | Toe Poke | Fantasy | FC TV | Podcast | MLS
In terms of territorial domination, Argentina again had the upper hand, but they had no accurate finishing touch.
An early first-half chance saw Tevez pick out the run of Ezequiel Lavezzi whose powerful low cross from the left was intercepted by Antony Silva, the Paraguay goalkeeper preventing it reaching the lurking Angel Di Maria.
Di Maria created the best chance of the first half for Tevez after 20 minutes when he won possession on the right and swiftly picked out Tevez in the centre, but the inviting cross was headed wastefully over the bar from close range.
Tevez and Javier Mascherano took tame shots from further out, before Di Maria carved out a good chance for himself but blasted high over the bar when he should at least have tested Silva.
Paraguay carried scant threat. From a free-kick, Dario Lezcano saw his shot trundle wide. Silva denied Lavezzi and the half ended with Tevez shooting off target.
Argentina would have hoped to create as many chances in the second half as they had in the opening 45 minutes, but instead the cracks in Paraguay's backline closed up.
Di Maria drove into the outer side-netting of the goal from 25 yards in the 52nd minute, before Tevez took his nudge in the face from Caceres.
On a rare attack, Paraguay had a decent chance as Lucas Barrios was left in space on the edge of the penalty area. He took aim for the right corner but Pablo Zabaleta dived in to make a strong block.
On came Erik Lamela and then Dybala, but Argentina's attacks were growing more laboured and unconvincing.
Dybala had glory in his sights when the ball fell for him in the penalty area four minutes from time, but the 21-year-old went for the far left top corner and cleared his target by a long way.
The visitors had a last-gasp opportunity to create something with a free-kick awarded wide on the left, but Di Maria failed even to beat the one-man wall and reach the penalty area.
It summed up another miserable evening for the two-time former world champions and runners-up in the 2014 finals, whose road to Russia is already proving problematic.