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Republic of Ireland
5 March 2014
• Arena Naţională, Bucureşti
Referee: G. Rocchi
• Attendance: 53000
Argentina's World Cup preparations continue against Trinidad and Tobago on June 3 before they meet Slovenia three days later. That's all from me, Max Bentley, on this live commentary. I hope you enjoyed the game. Until next time, goodbye.
As for Argentina, Alejandro Sabella has much to ponder about as he attempts to trim his squad to 23 players. Angel Di Maria was perhaps the Albiceleste's most dangerous threat down the left while it was not one of Gonzalo Higuain's better evenings. Sergio Romero has surely established himself as the Argentina No.1 after that performance while the displays of centre-back pairing of Jose Maria Basanta and Federico Fernandez will also comfort Alejandro Sabella.
That performance will leave many Romanians wondering how they did not book a ticket on the plane to Brazil. Victor Piturca's side looked resilient in the back and really should have been ahead at half-time if it was not for the heroics of Sergio Romero in the Argentina goal. Plenty of encouragement for the Romanians though as they begin preparing for the 2016 European Championships.
FT: Romania 0-0 Argentina. The referee blows his final whistle as the match ends goalless. Both sides showed plenty of attacking endeavour throughout but lacked the composure in front of goal. There is still lots of work to be done for Alejandro Sabella's side as they prepare for the World Cup in June.
90' + 2'
Romania tasted success the last time these two sides met back in 1994 and they nearly snatch a late winner as Torje delivers a teasing cross into the box. However, Zabaleta is determined to keep his clean sheet intact and shows his positional awareness to clear the danger.
Ángel Di María
A late change for Argentina follows as Maxi Rodriguez comes on to replace Angel Di Maria. The Real Madrid man has been a constant threat all evening and looks a certainty to start in Brazil.
Alexandru Mihăiţă Chipciu
A sixth change of the game for Romania as Gheorghe Grozav replaces Alexandru Chipciu. Paul Anton and Laurentiu Rus are still waiting to make their debuts from the bench.
Argentina are finally showing some urgency but it appears to have come too late. Di Maria delivers a teasing corner into the box and Basanta ghosts into the box to meet it, only to see his header flash inches wide.
GREAT SAVE BY PANTILIMON! Messi is looking dangerous in the closing stages and his cute chipped pass sets up Palacio inside the box. The Inter striker cannot direct his lobbed effort on target but it comes to Lavezzi at the back post who is denied a winning goal when his fierce effort is somehow palmed over the top by the Manchester City goalkeeper. Brilliant save.
Messi has been surrounded by yellow shirts all game but he manages to shake off the challenge of two defenders to tee up Di Maria on the left side of the box. The 26-year-old tries his luck on goal but his deflected effort is well saved by Pantilimon at his near post.
CHANCE FOR ROMANIA! The hosts nearly nick a late winner as Torje's clever pass picks out the darting run of Lazar. However, Romero once again shows his expert reading of the game and rushes off his line to smother the ball.
STAT: Romania are the 36th different nation that Lionel Messi has played against. He has scored against 19 of the previous 35.
There is a stoppage in play as Gardos receives treatment. The Steaua Bucharest centre-back should be able to continue.
WHAT A CHANCE FOR ARGENTINA! Mascherano's passing has been superb in this second half and he plays a pinpoint ball over the head of Gardos and into the path of Di Maria. However, it appears to take the Real Madrid man by surprise and he instinctively shuffles his effort over the crossbar.
Gonzalo Higuain has not enjoyed the finest of performances today and his game comes to an end as he is replaced by Ezequiel Lavezzi for the final 13 minutes. Can the PSG attacker conjure up some late magic?
Another change for Romania as Srgian Luchin comes on to replace the impressive Alexandru Matel.
Romania have been on the back foot in the last ten minutes or so but they nearly find an opening when Rusescu latches onto a pass inside the Argentina half. The Sporting Braga forward attempts to bulldoze his way past Rojo and Fernandez but he is easily outmuscled and Argentina reclaim possession.
Argentina are slowing starting to up the tempo now but they are finding it difficult against this organised and resilient Romania defence. Gardos, in particular, has been mightily impressive.
ARGENTINA SHOULD BE AHEAD! Messi is the architect as his mazy run draws defenders towards him, allowing him to slip in Di Maria on the left side of the box. The Real Madrid man looks up and delivers a low cross towards Palacio on a plate. The striker is barely six yards out but he seems to get the ball caught between his feet and somehow stabs the ball wide of the target.
There is an absolutely electrifying atmosphere in the stadium as the supporters enjoy a Mexican wave. The Romanian fans have certainly been treated to a good performance from their side.
Raul Andrei Rusescu
Another change for Romania as Ciprian Marica is replaced by Raul Rusescu who comes on for his third cap. Razvan Rat takes the armband.
Palacio looks to make an impact as he collects Zabaleta's pass before cleverly picking out Higuain on the edge of the box. However, the Napoli striker has not quite got his shooting boots on today as he fizzes a left-footed effort into the side netting.
Argentina are lacking urgency in attack and they seem happy to pass the ball around patiently and wait for that killer pass. I think Alejandro Sabella will be a little concerned at how little they have tested the Romanian goal.
Romania win a free kick on the right when Torje is fouled by Rojo. However, they cannot take advantage as Rat's shot balloons high over the crossbar.
Di Maria manages to find space down the left once again and he whips a dangerous cross into the box towards Higuain. However, Gardos refuses to be beaten and he produces a brilliant interception on the stretch to deny the Napoli man.
Argentina have looked threatening down the left but they have offered very little on the right wing. Zabaleta attempts to burst his way to the byline but he is thwarted by a combination of Rat and Pintilii.
Alejandro Sabella responds with two changes of his own as Rodrigo Palacio and Lucas Biglia come on to replace Sergio Aguero and Fernando Gago. I think they can be relatively pleased with their performances today. Manuel Pellegrini will be especially comforted that Aguero has been handed a rest after his recent injury problems.
Romania make their third substitution of the game as Costin Lazar comes on to replace Cristian Tanase.
Bourceanu is offering good protection to the Romania back four and he tracks back superbly to prevent Di Maria picking out Aguero or Higuain in the box. The Trabzonspor midfielder is yet to find the net for his country.
Matel has been superb for Romania when roaming forward from right-back and he collects Torje's pass before taking on Rojo. The Astra defender attempts to pick out a teammate with his cutback from the byline but Basanta is in the right position to clear the danger.
Messi appears to have shaken off those first-half problems as he waltzes past four Romania players before picking out Di Maria. However, the Real Madrid man cannot reverse the ball back into Messi's path and Pantilimon gathers.
GARDOS TO THE RESCUE! Argentina nearly take the lead as Mascherano's superb ball splits the Romania defence. Aguero latches onto it and rounds his Manchester City teammate Pantilimon. However, Gardos races back to clear his shot off the goalline. Brilliant defending from the Steaua Bucharest centre-back.
Alexandru Iulian Maxim
Ciprian Anton Tatarusanu
The teams take to the field for the second half and there have been two substitutions for the hosts with Gabriel Torje and Costel Pantilimon replacing Alexandru Maxim and Ciprian Tatarusanu. Messi continues for Argentina as they remain unchanged.
Lionel Messi certainly did not enjoy the best of halves and it appears the Barcelona attacker is struggling out there. The Argentina captain vomited on the pitch towards the end of the first half and I am not sure he will be able to continue.
HT: Romania 0-0 Argentina. The referee blows his whistle to signal the end of an enjoyable first half of football. Argentina started brightly but the best chances fell to the hosts, with Sergio Romero producing two brilliant saves to deny Ciprian Marica and Alexandru Maxim. Sergio Aguero went close to scoring a wonderful individual effort down the other end but the sides head in, surprisingly goalless, at the break.
Higuain's good hold-up play allows Aguero to tee up Di Maria on the edge of the box. However, the Real Madrid man is denied the opener as his fierce drive skews wide of the target.
Romania instantly counter attack down the other end and Tanase's curling effort narrowly misses the top right-hand corner. I'll be surprised if this one ends 0-0.
SO UNLUCKY FOR AGUERO! The Manchester City forward almost scores a wonderful solo effort as he dances past two yellow shirts before nutmegging Gardos. He has only the goalkeeper to beat but he cannot produce the finish that his dribbling deserves as he fires his shot straight into the midriff of Tatarusanu.
Argentina instantly attack down the other end and Tatarusanu is called into action as he keeps out Higuain's left-footed effort. This game is starting to open up now.
GOAL DISALLOWED FOR ROMANIA! The home fans have their celebrations cut short as the linesman inexplicably raises his flag when Maxim converts Matel's cross from the right. There certainly didn't seem to be any infringement and I'm not quite sure why he raised his flag there. Let-off for Argentina.
ROMANIA SHOULD BE AHEAD! He has had his critics in Argentina but the Albiceleste have Romero to thank once again as he reacts superbly to keep out Maxim's header from close range. The Stuttgart midfielder cannot believe he has not scored there. It was a wonderful cross into the box from Matel.
Messi produces a fine piece of skill to skin Rat down the right and he crosses the ball towards the penalty spot, only to see Gardos get ahead of Aguero to hack the ball clear. This is a good spell for the visitors.
BETTER FROM ARGENTINA! Aguero's jinking run allows him to pick out the run of Di Maria on the left. The Real Madrid midfielder instantly spots Higuain at the back post but once again the Napoli striker's touch is too heavy. However, the chance is still alive as Higuain manages to pick out Aguero with the cutback and his effort is deflected over the bar for a corner.
Romania come forward once again as Marica finds Rat, making his 95th international appearance, on the edge of the box. The Rayo Vallecano left-back attempts to take on Zabaleta but the Manchester City man reads his intentions expertly and makes the interception.
Argentina enjoy a sustained spell of possession as they look to get back into the game. Messi has been particularly quiet so far with Di Maria perhaps looking Argentina's most dangerous attacking threat with his bursts down the left.
STAT: Argentina have won just three of their last seven away games.
It may be a friendly but with World Cup places up for grabs, it has not been a convincing 23 minutes from Argentina. Aside from that Higuain stop, Tatarusanu has been relatively untested.
BRILLIANT SAVE FROM ROMERO! The Monaco goalkeeper produces a fine reflex save to prevent Romania going ahead, flexing his fingertips to divert Marica's glancing header over the bar. The Getafe striker thought he had scored his 25th international goal there.
This is a good spell for Romania and Maxim accelerates away from the Argentina midfield to thread a ball through for Tanase. However, Fernandez tracks the run of the Steaua Bucharest man excellently and makes a good challenge.
Argentina have looked solid from set-pieces so far but on this occasion, they leave Gardos completely unmarked from a corner and are relieved to see his header go over the bar.
Aguero has been out injured recently but he has looked sharp in the opening 15 minutes, slaloming past three Romanian defenders there before his pass towards Messi was intercepted. Carlos Tevez may have problems with Sabella but it's not difficult to see why he is left out of this Argentina roster.
Romania have looked dangerous in attack themselves however but once again, Argentina defend well to clear a corner from the left. For all their attacking prowess, there are question marks as to whether this Albiceleste defence is capable of World Cup glory.
GOOD SAVE FROM TATARUSANU! Di Maria is enjoying a terrific season for Real Madrid and he uses his pace to burst clear down the left before picking out the run of Higuain at the back post accurately. The Napoli striker's first touch takes him too wide of the goal however and Tatarusanu gets off his line quickly to deny him from a narrow angle.
Romania produce some wonderful one-touch passing to work their way from back to front but Marica cannot burst his way towards goal as the Getafe striker's dribble is halted by a strong challenge from Fernandez.
Maxim produces a neat piece of skill to get clear down the right wing but the Stuttgart man cannot pick out a teammate in yellow as his cross deflects off Rojo for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, Argentina clear with ease.
It's been a bright start from the South Americans and Fernandez is denied a goal when his header from a corner flashes narrowly over the top.
MESSI GOES CLOSE! Argentina win a free kick just outside the box and with a green laser pen obscuring his vision, Messi bends an effort around the wall which takes a deflection before going narrowly wide.
Messi and Aguero link up intelligently to dance their way past several yellow shirts. However, the Albiceleste captain is thwarted at the final moment by a good challenge from Matel, who has recovered from a knock to start this match.
A close shave for Argentina as Tanase's quick thinking releases Maxim on the left corner of the box. However, Romero is alert to the danger and rushes off his line to make the save.
The referee blows his whistle and Romania get the game underway. Can the Europeans replicate their spirit of 1994 and earn another famous victory?
ARGENTINA (4-3-3): Romero; Zabaleta, Basanta, Fernandez, Rojo; Gago, Mascherano, Di Maria; Aguero, Messi, Higuain.
ROMANIA (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Grigore, Gardos, Matel, Rat; Chipciu, Pintilii; Bourceanu, Tanase, Maxim; Marica.
Brilliant noise from the Romanian crowd as their anthem reverberates around the stands. A huge national yellow jersey is being held up by several hundred Romanians. Good atmosphere here with kick-off swiftly approaching.
The two teams emerge from the tunnels, with Romania sporting their new yellow Adidas jerseys. The Albiceleste, with Messi and Aguero both starting, are in their traditional blue and white shirts as their national anthem rings around the stadium.
Tonight's match between Romania and Argentina is the first meeting between the sides since the five-goal thriller at the 1994 World Cup when Gheorghe Hagi and Ilie Dumitrescu inspired the Europeans to a 3-2 victory.
Tonight's match marks Romania's first contest since the second leg of that World Cup play-off defeat to Greece back on November 19 while Argentina take to the field for the first time since a Sergio Aguero double gave them a 2-0 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina the same day.
While Romania failed to qualify for the World Cup, coach Victor Piturca is determined to show the Bucharest faithful a good performance. "I hope to achieve a good result, I do not want to lose this match," he said. "Our game works much better against South American teams. Argentina have extraordinary players through their spine but they don't mark you as closely, so we can beat them."
However, the Romanians face a stern test this evening as they face the side ranked third in the world who have lost just four of their 31 matches under Alejandro Sabella. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain in attack, it's bound to be a good examination of the Romanian defence.
I'm Max Bentley and I'll be bringing you up to date with all the action from Bucharest where Romania hope to continue their good home record. Victor Piturca's side have lost just one of their last eight games in the capital (a 2-0 defeat to Turkey back in September).
Good evening and welcome to this live commentary of Romania vs. Argentina. With 98 days to go until the 2014 World Cup, Alejandro Sabella has one last opportunity to cast his eye over potential selections before he announces his 23-man squad.
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