( dpa ) - Argentina were held to a tricky 1-1 home draw Saturday in Buenos Aires by Paraguay, who remain the lone leaders of the South American qualifiers towards the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
In a cold, rainy afternoon, Argentina had the first clear chance in the game, when a free kick executed by expert Juan Roman Riquelme hit the crossbar in the 8th minute.
However, a gross mistake in the 13th minute by defender Gabriel Heinze dramatically changed the course of the game. Heinze failed to header the ball clear, collided with Argentine keeper Roberto Abbondanzieri and finally scored an own goal. Abbondanzieri, with a knee injury, had to be replaced by Juan Pablo Carrizo.
To make matters worse, Argentina - who now have not won a game in the last four rounds of the qualifiers - were down to 10 men by the 31st minute, after Carlos Tevez was shown the red card for a violent foul on Dario Veron.
A very orderly Paraguay controlled play until the break. However, Argentine coach Alfio Basile fielded substitute striker Sergio Aguero, who was very active throughout the second half and changed the trend in the match.
Aguero capitalized on a great pass from Lionel Messi in the 62nd minute to make things 1-1, and he even had at least two good chances to put Argentina ahead, although he could not increase his count.
"The draw is good, because with 10 men it was very difficult to beat them," Aguero admitted after the game.
Paraguayan striker Nelson Haedo Valdez was also generally happy with the result.
"The draw is more use to us than it is to Argentina," he said.
Still the striker regretted the missed chance.
"We were one step away from making history, we had never won in Argentina..." he said with some disappointment.
After seven rounds in the South American qualifiers, Paraguay tops the table with 14 points, while Argentina remains second on 12 points.
The games Ecuador-Bolivia, Colombia-Uruguay and Peru-Venezuela were set to be played later Saturday, with Chile hosting Brazil on Sunday.