Messi goal sends Argentina to next round

2014-06-21 21:33

Lionel’s Messi late goal proved the difference as Argentina toiled to a 1-0 victory over an obstinate Iran in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, today.

Having recorded a 2-1 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in their opening clash, Argentina went into this encounter looking to pick up another three points to book their place in the Round of 16.

They were frustrated for large sections of the match but eventually got the breakthrough they were looking for in the first minute of injury time as Messi cut inside from the right before firing a curling effort into the top left corner from outside the area.

The first half was a relatively dour affair, with Iran looking to nullify the Argentina attack by packing the defence.

The first chance of the game arrived after just three minutes, Jalal Hosseini heading wide from a free kick, while at the opposite end of the pitch, Messi saw a powerful effort blocked by an Iranian defender.

Following a lull in play, Argentina threatened again on 21 minutes, Sergio Agüero latching on to a pass from Gonzalo Higuaín before firing a curling effort at goal, which was acrobatically saved by Alireza Haghighi in the Iran goal.

And they again went close two minutes later as Marcos Rojo rose above his marker only to see his headed effort fly wide of the far post.

There was another good chance for La Albiceleste on the half-hour mark, but Messi was unable to find the mark direct from a free kick, his dipping effort going just over the bar.

A pattern was beginning to emerge as the Argentineans squandered another good chance on 36 minutes, this time Ezequiel Garay heading over from close range.

Iran’s best chance of the half came on 41 minutes and they went oh so close to breaking the deadlock as Hosseini headed over from a corner, with Argentina’s defence at sixes and sevens.

There was a marked improvement from both sides in the second stanza, with Argentina piling on the pressure as they went in search of the opener, while Iran grew in confidence as the scoreline remained goalless.

Manchester City fullback Pablo Zabaleta fired a curling effort high and wide on 50 minutes before Agüero sent a flicked header wide of goal.

But Argentina were caught flat-footed just moments later as Reza Ghoochannejhad lost his marker in the box before seeing his headed effort denied by Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

And just one minute later, Iran were appealing for a penalty after Zabaleta brought down Ashkan Dejagah in the area. But the referee was having none of it and waved play on. Replays of the incident seemed to suggest that Dejagah had a valid claim for a penalty.

The match was growing in intensity and Messi again went close on the hour mark, his surging run towards the box ending with a low shot, which flew just wide of the left-hand post.

Iran did have chances of their own, though, with first Ehsan Hajsafi and then Dejagah causing Argentinian hearts to skip a beat.

Haghighi had to be on his toes in the Iran goal to deny Ángel di María’s stinging effort in the 75th minute, while Rojo shot wide of the target in the 82nd minute.

Ghoochannejhad then had a glorious opportunity to make himself the hero for Iran but his 85th-minute shot was well saved by Romero.

Just when it looked like Iran had done enough to claim a share of the spoils, none other than Messi popped up in the first minute of injury time to net what would be the winning goal.

The diminutive striker picked up the ball just outside the box before cutting inside and firing a curling effort into the top left corner, with Haghighi unable to get a glove to it.

The result sees Argentina book their place in the round of 16, while Iran still have a slim chance of progressing after claiming a point from their first match draw with Nigeria.

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