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Messi magic too much for Aus as Argentina enter WC quarters

Last updated on: December 04, 2022 08:41 IST
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Lionel Messi scores the team's first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 match between Argentina and Australia

IMAGE: Lionel Messi scores Argentina's first goal during the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match against Australia, at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. Photograph: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Lionel Messi scored his first goal in a World Cup knock-out match on his 1,000th career appearance as two-time champions Argentina beat off a late fightback by Australia to win 2-1 on Saturday and reach the quarter-finals.

Messi put Argentina ahead after 35 minutes with a coolly taken strike low into the corner for his 94th international goal to pass the great Diego Maradona's tally of eight World Cup goals for the South Americans.

 

Julian Alvarez added a second close to the hour mark after a howler by keeper Mat Ryan that put the game beyond Australia and set up a mouth-watering last-eight clash with the Netherlands, who beat the United States 3-1 earlier on Saturday.

Argentina took a while to get into a match that started off scrappy, with Alejandro Gomez, Enzo Fernandez and Alvarez combining well but unable to break down a resolute defence.

 Argentina's Alejandro Gomez is challenged by Australia's Aaron Mooy

IMAGE: Argentina's Alejandro Gomez is challenged by Australia's Aaron Mooy. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Gomez had an early chance when he was clear on the left and cut inside but fired off a shot that went wildly wide, while Messi struggled to make his mark in the early exchanges.

Australia had their best chance from a corner near the half-hour mark when Harry Souttar, over two metres tall, climbed high to head down from a corner but his effort lacked power.

Buoyed by rapturous, overwhelming Argentine support that sang and bounced in unison on all four sides of the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Argentina pressed and finally made the breakthrough, with Messi involved in the start and finish.

Lionel Messi of Argentina tussles with Aziz Behich of Australia

IMAGE: Lionel Messi tussles with Australia's Aziz Behich. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

He took a free kick that was cleared and eventually found Alexis Mac Allister and he passed to Nicolas Otamendi, who tapped it back for Messi to fire low beyond the reach of the outstretched Ryan.

Argentina and Messi came back from the interval hunting for more and got their second in the 57th minute when Ryan bungled a backpass under pressure from Rodrigo De Paul and was dispossessed by Alvarez, who turned and fired home.

But Australia refused to give in and pressed forward with a succession of attacks and pulled a goal back after 77 minutes when substitute Craig Goodwin's powerful and speculative shot took a huge deflection off Fernandez and flew into the net.

Marcos Acuna of Argentina battles for possession with Riley McGree of Australia

IMAGE: Argentina's Marcos Acuna battles for possession with Australia's Riley McGree. Photograph: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

With nothing to lose and a chance to take the match into extra time, Australia pushed forward and nearly scored again a few minutes later, when Aziz Behich darted into the area and was goalbound before a brilliant saving tackle by Lisandro Martinez.

Argentina looked dangerous late on as they battled for a third goal, with Lautaro Martinez firing wide.

Messi spurned two clear chances in the dying minutes and Australia were painfully close to an equaliser when Garang Kuol missed in front of the goal with seconds left in stoppage time.

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Source: REUTERS
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