Lionel Messi made light of a
first-half penalty miss as he began the season with a typically
exuberant display to help Argentina outclass Germany 3-1 in a
friendly where everything went wrong for the hosts.
Messi, out of the limelight during Euro 2012 and the Olympic
Games, clearly relished being back on centre stage against as
Argentina came close to avenging their 4-0 World Cup
quarter-final defeat two years ago.
He scored Argentina's second and was twice within
centimetres of adding more goals, causing mayhem in the German
defence every time he was given the ball.
Messi, until recently accused by some Argentine critics of
saving his best for Barcelona, has scored in his last five
internationals, including hat-tricks against Switzerland and
Argentina themselves have lost only once in 12 outings since
Alejandro Sabella replaced Sergio Batista as coach one year ago.
Germany, on the other hand, will face more questions as the
defeat came less than two months after their shock semi-final
loss to Italy in Euro 2012.
Germany had begun brightly and could have taken the lead
before the game turned in the 31st minute when goalkeeper
Ron-Robert Zieler upended Jose Sand, conceded a penalty and was
His replacement Marc-Andre ter Stegen, playing his second
international, saved Messi's weakly struck spot-kick, but it was
only the beginning of Germany's troubles.
The Germans, who had already lost Mats Hummels in a clash of
heads with Gonzalo Higuain, then conceded an own goal in
first-half injury time when Sami Khedira turned Angel di Maria's
corner into his own goal.
Playing with a man down against an attack feature Di Maria,
Messi and Higuain was clearly a hopeless task and Argentina
compounded their misery by bringing on Sergio Aguero at
To prove it was not their evening, Germany forward Marco
Reus shot against the post early in the second half and,
although Khedira had the ball in the net from the rebound, his
effort was disallowed for offside.
After Messi swept home Higuain's cutback with a majestic
left-foot strike in the 51st minute, it became a case of how
many Argentina would score.
Sabella recognised that the penalty was the turning point.
"Germany had played better than us up to that point and that
completely turned the match in our favour," he said.
"In the second half, Messi combined well with Aguero and
that gave us more options against a team in a numerical
Germany coach Joachim Low added: "When you're down to 10
men for an hour and give away an own goal against some
technically very good players, it's very, very difficult to get
back into the game again."
The last half-hour was purgatory for Germany as Argentina's
diminutive forwards pulled them inside out and Germany's only
salvation was that Messi missed two chances he would normally
have put away.
Messi failed to take advantage of his favourite situation
when he was sent clean through on goal but sent his
characteristic dink wide of the goal, then slipped between two
defenders but poked the ball wide again.
In between, Di Maria added the third with a 35-metre drive
which left Ter Stegen wrong-footed before Benedikt Howedes
headed a consolation to make the score more respectable.
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