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Rediff.com  » Sports » Messi enthralls Kolkata, helps Argentina beat Venezuela

Messi enthralls Kolkata, helps Argentina beat Venezuela

Last updated on: September 3, 2011 00:28 IST

Messi enthralls Kolkata, helps Argentina beat Venezuela

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Lionel Messi kept his date with India and unfolded his magic when he led Argentina in a FIFA international friendly against Venezuela in Kolkata even as the euphoria of one of the most high-profile matches in the country reached a crescendo.

The Argentine captain curled in a corner in the 67th minute and Nicolas Otamendi, unmarked at the near post, nodded the ball down and into the net before rushing off to lift the Barcelona playmaker.


Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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Messi was impressive

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Messi orchestrated most of the attacks but Argentina found it tough to beat Venezuela keeper Rafael Romo at the Yuba Bharati Stadium.

Romo made several saves, including one brilliant effort to foil Messi that led to the 67th-minute corner.

Javier Pastore could have made it 2-0 after Romo collided with Gonzalo Higuain, but the substitute blasted the ball over an empty net.


Image: Indian fans of Lionel Messi
Photographs: Reuters
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Messi ensured a winning debut for coach Sabella

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Alejandro Sabella made his debut as Argentina coach.

After their debacle in Copa America, where they are champions 14 times but failed to get past quarter-finals this time in July, Argentina are in process of rebuilding their side under Sabella with an eye on 2014 World Cup.

The former Estudiantes coach, who took over the reigns of the national team after the dismissal of Sergio Batista, who was fired after their quarterfinal exit in Copa America in July, has already shown his eagerness to begin on a winning note.


Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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Messi showed off his dribbling skills

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Messi showed off his dribbling skills when he evaded three challenges to set up Angel di Maria inside the box but the Real Madrid player shot wide.

He later beat two defenders in the box before unleashing a tame shot that Romo had no problem gathering.


Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Reuters
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Messi created many chances

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Venezuela created the first real chance of the game only to see Jose Rondon squander his opportunity.

Rondon's team mounted several attacks in the first half without having a single shot on target.

Then Messi took over, creating many chances for his team.


Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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Otamendi headed the only goal

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Nicolas Otamendi headed the only goal as Argentina won 1-0.

Captain Messi curled in a corner in the 67th minute and Otamendi, unmarked at the near post, nodded the ball down and into the net before rushing off to lift the Barcelona playmaker.


Image: Argentina players celebrate Otamundi's (3) goal
Photographs: Reuters
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Messi will lead Argentina against Nigeria next

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Kolkata is renowned for its soccer passion and a local derby featuring East Bengal and Mohun Bagan often draws a crowd in excess of 100,000.

The former capital of British India has previously hosted greats like Pele and Diego Maradona but this is the first time the eastern city has hosted such a high-profile match.

The Argentines travel to Dhaka for a second friendly against Nigeria on September 6.


Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
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