DOHA : Lionel Messi scored on his 1,000th career appearance in Argentina’s 2-1 win over Australia at the World Cup on to surpass his great predecessor Diego Maradona’s tournament total and set up a quarter-final clash with the Netherlands.
Seeking a first World Cup at his fifth attempt, the mesmerizing Messi curled the ball low past goalkeeper Mat Ryan from inside the area in the 35th minute to send the legions of Argentine fans into delirium at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Julian Alvarez bagged Argentina’s second from close range in the 57th minute after fatal hesitation from Ryan with the ball at his feet following a backpass.
Australia, who did superbly to reach the last-166 and are ranked 35 places below the double World Cup winners, defended valiantly with the towering Harry Souttar prominent. They set up a nervy end after Craig Goodwin’s shot was deflected into the net off Enzo Fernandez for an own goal in the 77th minute, but could not find an equaliser.A sublime Lionel Messi goal helped Argentina set up a World Cup quarter-final against the Netherlands with a 2-1 win over Australia but they came close to suffering another meltdown after Craig Goodwin’s ridiculous consolation for the Socceroos.
Messi’s superb strike ten minutes before half-time and a poacher’s goal from Julian Alvarez following a Mat Ryan blunder were enough in the end for Argentina, and a reminder of why the pair make such a dangerous partnership.
But Goodwin’s wildly-deflected effort made the game far closer than it should have been and it took a huge block from substitute Lisandro Martinez and a fine save from goalkeeper Emi Martinez to deny Australia a shock late leveller.
In the end, a wasteful Argentine performance, illuminated by Messi, was both a reminder of why they are so fancied to win the World Cup, but also why concerns remain about the durability of Lionel Scaloni’s side.(Evening Standard)
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