Messi scores winner over Portugal

BY foxsports • February 9, 2011

Lionel Messi scored a 90th-minute penalty to give Argentina a 2-1 win over Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in the first international meeting of the two players on Wednesday.

Two-time world player of the year Messi also was the dominating early influence and set up Angel di Maria to give Argentina a 14th-minute lead.

Ronaldo leveled in the 21st to get his first career goal in a match against Messi. The Portugal captain, who preceeded Messi as the world's best player in 2008, also went close twice with second-half shots.

Portugal striker Hugo Almeida was guilty of a glaring miss from two yards (meters) in the 56th.

Argentina substitute Javier Pastore struck the crossbar with an 86th-minute header.

Messi and Ronaldo have often been opponents at club level in the Champions League and now Spain, but their two countries had last played each other in 1972.

The neutral Stade de Geneve felt like a home game for Portugal thanks to its large expatriate community in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Messi was therefore subjected to whistles and jeers when he shimmied past a Ronaldo challenge in the 2nd minute.

The tiny Argentine had the first effort at goal in the 7th, heading wide from eight yards (meters).

Messi then sent Di Maria clear to give Argentina the lead.

The two-time defending world player of the year danced over a wild tackle by Raul Meireles before chipping an angled pass for Di Maria. The Real Madrid winger deftly guided his shot over the advancing goalkeeper Eduardo.

Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero dealt uncertainly with a cross in the 19th minute, and was beaten in Portugal's next attack.

Ronaldo moved decisively on to Hugo Almeida's flicked header, making Romero seem hesitant as he slid in to strike a powerful rising shot into the net from six yards (meters).

Ronaldo threatened again in the 24th, counterattacking from an Argentina corner but his shot was deflected just wide.

Newly energized, the Portugal captain did double duty in defense when fouling Messi in the center circle to stop an Argentina break.

Messi earned another free kick in the 34th, but his shot from 20 yards (meters) was charged down by the Portugal wall.

Argentina wasted a clear chance in the 40th, when Ezequiel Lavezzi fired a first-time shot over the bar from Marcos Rojo's left-flank cross.

Both star players emerged for the second half, and Ronaldo soon had two good chances to put his side ahead.

In the 49th, his half-volley rose too sharply over the goal after Romero was again unconvincing in the goalmouth.

When played onside in the 56th, Ronaldo had time to place a right-foot shot which the diving Romero parried into Almeida's path.

The big striker was clear in front of goal but prodded the ball wide, raising howls of frustration from Portuguese fans.

Messi struck another free-kick that required a diving save from Eduardo.

Ronaldo departed after an hour as Portugal coach Paulo Bento changed his entire three-man forward line.

Messi stayed on as Di Maria made way for Pastore, and the replacement was sent clear by Messi but Eduardo smothered the shot.

Portugal defender Fabio Coentrao fired a long-distance shot just high of the goal, and honors seemed sure to be even until referee Massimo Busacca judged Pastore was fouled in a tangled challenge in the Portugal box.

Messi approached the spot-kick with a lazy run and deceived Eduardo into diving the wrong way.


Argentina: Sergio Romero, Javier Zanetti (Pablo Zabaleta, 62), Nicolas Burdisso, Gabriel Milito, Marcos Rojo, Ever Banega (Fernando Gago, 62), Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso (Lucas Biglia, 79), Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria (Javier Pastore, 66).

Portugal: Eduardo, Joao Pereira, Rolando, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Carlos Martins, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles (Miguel Veloso, 79), Cristiano Ronaldo (Danny, 60), Hugo Almeida (Helder Postiga, 60), Nani (Ricardo Quaresma, 60).

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