Messi nets late penalty to give Argentina victory against Croatia

Lionel Messi scored for the penalty spot to push Argentina past Croatia.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

LONDON — 

Lionel Messi scored the winner from the penalty spot as World Cup runner-up Argentina came from behind to beat Croatia 2-1 in a friendly on Wednesday.

Messi’s 45th international goal came in the 57th minute after striker Sergio Aguero was judged to have been brought down by Croatia goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic when trying to round him. Messi stroked the ball into the bottom right corner as Kalinic dived the wrong way.

Croatia had performed well until then despite coach Niko Kovac picking a fairly inexperienced side compared to Argentina, many of whose starting line-up played in the 1-0 defeat to Germany in the World Cup final.

Playing at West Ham’s ground in east London, Croatia took a deserved lead in the 11th minute when Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero parried the ball into the path of striker Anas Sharbini, who slotted home. Argentina slowly found its momentum with Aguero and Angel Di Maria coming close to putting their team level.

Defender Christian Ansaldi equalized for Argentina in the 49th minute after his shot from the edge of the penalty area was deflected past Kalinic by Aguero.

Carlos Tevez, who used to play for West Ham, came on to a rapturous reception when he replaced Aguero in the 62nd minute. He nearly put Argentina 3-1 ahead soon afterward when Messi threaded a perfect pass through the Croatia defense but Tevez’s right-footed effort drifted just wide of the left post.

HEAR US OUT

Tevez was playing for Argentina for the first time since the 2011 Copa America, with his recall following some strong displays this season for Juventus.

Croatia’s next match is a European Championship qualifier against Italy on Sunday in Rome.

Argentina meets Portugal in a friendly at Manchester United’s home ground, Old Trafford, next Tuesday.