Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez stunners keep La Albiceleste alive with crucial victory


Lionel Messi was far from his best, but produced one moment of magic to send Argentina on their way to a much-needed victory over Mexico, another special moment from Enzo Fernandez sealed the crucial 2-0 victory.

His 20-yard strike in the 64th minute proved the crucial moment in the game Argentina needed to win after their opening loss to Saudi Arabia, and then the game was put beyond doubt when Fernandez curled a shot inside the far corner three minutes from time.

Although dominating possession, Argentina looked far from certain to break the deadlock with Mexico defending with great organisation and numbers.

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However, 19 minutes into the second half Messi received a square ball from Angel Di Maria and with his first touch pushed the ball in front of him, giving him the space to drill his second contact low inside the corner giving Guillermo Ochoa no chance.

Messi can also claim an assist for the second goal, though all the credit goes to substitute Fernandez who after a leg-over, turned inside the Mexican defenders closing him down and produced another effort beyond the Mexican stopper.

The victory moves Argentina second in the group with three points, one behind next opponents Poland and above Saudi Arabia on goal difference. Mexico prop up Group C with a solitary point.

TALKING POINT

Not convincing, but something to build on – Argentina still look far from the fluent side which thrashed Italy in the Finalissima at Wembley in the summer but the history of the World Cup is littered by sides who started slowly (albeit rarely with a shock defeat the scale of their defeat to Saudi Arabia) before building as the tournament goes on.

Messi does not look capable of dominating games but he can have moments and he showed this with his crucial goal. Players such as Fernandez and Mac Allister with their willingness to cover ground up and down the field, to go with their quality, will be crucial as for long periods of the game they looked static in possession.

Another substitute Julian Alvarez is a player who stretches the field and makes it hard for defences to just form a barricaded wall across the field 25 yards from goal. Mexico showed so little ambition it is difficult to judge a defence, but Argentina’s does look solid enough to keep them in games – they conceded goals to the only shots taken by Saudi Arabia – and should be good enough to get them the result against Poland to reach the second round. By then, they would hope to have built on their fluency in attack.

Lionel Messi, buteur et sauveur de l’Argentine face au Mexique

Image credit: Getty Images

PLAYER OF THE MATCH

Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina) – It was far from a game where the veteran defender had to test his 34-year-old legs but with Mexico’s attacks usually comprising of high balls into he box, the former Manchester City centre back was imperious defending his penalty area. He will be tested more against Robert Lewandowski in the next game but with Lisandro Martinez perhaps a more suited central defensive partner for him than Cristian Romero he looked an assured presence this evening.

PLAYER RATINGS

Argentina: Martinez 7; Montiel 6, Otamendi 8*, Lisandro Martinez 7, Acuna 6; De Paul 6, Guido Rodriguez 6, Mac Allister 7; Messi 7; Lautaro 5, Di Maria 7.

Subs: Fernandez 7, Alvarez 7, Molina 6, Palacios 6, Romero 6.

Mexico: Ochoa 6; K Alvarez 6, Araúujo 6, Moreno 6, Montes 6, Gallardo 6; Guardado 6, Herrera 6, Chavez 6; Lozano 6, Vega 5.

Subs: Gutierrez 6, Jiminez 5, Antuna 6, Alvarado.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

10′ NERVOUS MOMENT FOR ARGENTINA! A low free kick hit in from the left flank by Chavez is met by Herrera at the front post but he cannot steer the ball on target.

45′ VEGA CURLS FREE KICK OVER WALL – But Martinez catches the ball diving high to his right.

64′ GOAL FOR ARGENTINA! That is the moment! He has looked barely fit and a shadow of his usual self, but here he provides the magic, pushing the ball away from himself with his first touch and then drilling a second low into the corner from 20 yards.

87′ GOAL FOR ARGENTINA! Messi was given a short corner and with defenders drawn to him he played the ball inside to Fernandez who curls an effort inside the far post.

KEY STAT

5 – Messi has scored a goal for the fifth game in succession.

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