It was a case of “The Late, Late Show” for Argentina last night as 85th and 89th minute goals helped the Albiceleste level their friendly match against Mexico at two all at the AT&T Stadium in Texas.
Argentine magician and forward Lionel Messi (who else?) saved the day with a stunning equalizer with one minute of normal time remaining, after striker Sergio Agüero came off the bench to score Argentina’s first just four minutes earlier, following a first-half penalty from Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández before midfielder Héctor Herrera doubled the Mexican lead with 20 minutes left to play.
Things didn’t get off to a great start, as center back Nicolás Otamendi looked more sleepy than me at 7 AM during the first half, first nearly selling goalkeeper Nahuel Guzmán short with a weak back pass, before conceding a penalty after tripping up Mexico forward Raúl Jiménez when he was clean through on goal, which Chicharito (Little Pea, in English) duly converted.
Argentina did create a good chance to equalize after 37 minutes, but after a neat play, left back Marcos Rojo dragged his shot wide. In fairness, he wouldn’t exactly be anyone’s first choice to be clean through on goal. After this moment, though, Argentina did seem to improve, and a lovely pass from midfielder Fernando Gago found 20-year-old forward Ángel Correa, who was starting for his country for the first time after coming off the bench on Friday to score three minutes into his debut. Unfortunately, the youngster saw his shot well saved by Mexican keeper Moisés Muñoz.
There was still some action to come before the interval, as Gago did a brilliant impression of Rodrigo Bentancur, passing the ball straight to Chicharito, but the Little Pea put his shot over the crossbar when he only had the keeper to beat.
After the break, the beaten Copa América finalists created a few half chances, with striker Carlos Tevez with a long-distance attempt and Correa again denied by Muñoz, who didn’t look like he was in the mood to let anything past him.
Mexico’s second came on the counter attack when the ball fell to midfielder Héctor Herrera, who slotted the ball into the bottom corner to double their advantage.
With less than 20 minutes to go, Argentine manager Gerardo Martino finally decided to make some changes, bringing on five players in quick succession in an attempt to try and salvage something from the game.
They worked, as with five minutes left, Muñoz seemed to change his mind about not conceding, as he misjudged a bouncing Messi long ball, allowing substitute forward Ezequiel Lavezzi to cross the ball to fellow substitute Agüero who tapped the ball into an empty net.
The comeback was complete with one minute left, as Agüero turned provider, clipping the ball over the Mexican defenders for Messi to chest it down and nonchalantly volley it past the keeper. He made it look effortless, providing us all with yet another reminder of just how ridiculously talented he is.
The match, which didn’t kick off until past 1130: PM in Argentina, was played at the home of American football team Dallas Cowboys, and the pitch came in for criticism. (It was pretty crap, as you can see.)
Perfecto el césped donde esta jugando Messi pic.twitter.com/6sfbgSTS5i
— Fiebre Culé (@FiebreCule) September 9, 2015
Fortunately, nobody was injured, and while this was only a friendly, Martino, Messi & co. will be hoping for a much improved performance by the time October comes around, when their World Cup qualifying campaign gets underway against Ecuador in Buenos Aires.