Messi inspires Argentina to 1-0 win over Venezuela

AP, Friday 2 Sep 2011

New captain Lionel Messi inspired Argentina to a 1-0 victory over Venezuela in a friendly on Friday much to the delight of 75,000 spectators at the Salt Lake Stadium

Lionel Messi

Messi set up the decisive goal in the 67th minute with a corner from the left, which was headed in by Nicolas Otamendi for his first goal in 12 games for his country. 

The crowd, which included many celebrities including just-retired Indian football star Bhaichung Bhutia, roared every time Messi showed glimpses of his magical footwork, but the Barcelona star failed to score in the first half.

Argentina seemed to gel well, dominating the midfield early on before slowly taking control.

Messi, who was supported well by Real Madrid winger Angel di Maria, made several attempts on goal, but it was Otamendi who finally managed to put the ball in the net to complete a 19th victory in as many games for Argentina against Venezuela, which made a surprise semifinal run in the Copa America in July.

Argentina, which bowed out in the Copa quarterfinals on home soil, was playing its first game under new coach Alejandro Sabella.

“We won the game so I’m happy and looking forward to our World Cup qualifier against Venezuela on October 14,” Sabella said. “It is too early to make an analysis as I have to see the videos before coming to conclusions.”

The coach said Messi’s presence in the team had been important for other players.

“Messi is always an inspiration for the whole team. It was not a bad performance considering that the players had only three days together before this game,” he added.

For Venezuela, Jose Salomon Rondon and Frank Feltscher had decent attempts on goal in the first half, which pleased coach Cesar Farias.

“I thought we played a great game and created some chances to ensure a close match,” Farias said. “Though we can’t be happy since we lost, we made some counter-attacks and our defense did well today.” 

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