The little number 10 broke Brazilian hearts with less than a minute on the clock, in a tight game which the 'Verdeamarelho' arguably had the best of...A last-minute wonder goal by Lionel Messi stole a tight encounter for Argentina over South American rivals Brazil, when a surprisingly low-key game appeared destined for a draw. The Barcelona talisman scored with a typically mazy run and driven shot, to give Sergio Batista a great scalp in his first match since being confirmed as Diego Maradona's successor.
Right from the outset it was clear that neither team saw the clasico as a friendly, as the game kicked off at breakneck speed. Brazil were the team that impressed early, as they pressured the ‘Albiceleste’ across the park and attacked with pace and purpose. Argentina on the other hand struggled to impose their preferred one touch passing game as they contended with a swarm of yellow shirts attending their every move.
With 18 minutes on the clock Brazil were inches away from opening the scoring. Dani Alves was one of the players of the half down the right flank, and the Barsa man took advantage of neat build up play and less than impeccable marking to rattle Sergio Romero’s crossbar. David Luiz also headed just wide from a corner as Argentina suffered the familiar problem of defensive instability.
And just minutes later, with the Verdeamarelho swarming forward Ronaldinho had the best chance of the half. A low cross skidded through to the onside playmaker one on one with Romero; with his back to goal however the Milan man however opted for a backheel, which was easily stopped by the keeper.
As the half progressed Argentina became more comfortable, stringing passes together and bringing calm to proceedings. Predictably Lionel Messi was at the heart of most things positive, popping up all over the pitch despite nominally starting on the right side of attack. Striker Gonzalo Higuain had the two best chances for the ‘Seleccion’, first taking too long over a chance on the right side of the area and seeing his space disappear, before forcing an impressive save low down from Victor with a free header at a corner.
Brazil overall edged the first half with Ronaldinho clearly enjoying his return to the first team, but as the period was closing ‘La pulga’ Messi almost netted an incredible team move. The number 10 weaved past several rivals in his own half before continuing forward as the ball was exchanged between Zanetti, Banega and Higuain; the Barsa man then found himself on the edge of the area and let rip, but saw his effort zip just wide of Victor’s right-hand post as he was denied.
The second half continued with Romero continuing to plug gaps in a leaky defence, which was frequently breached by Ronaldinho and the two marauding Brazil wing backs. Throughout the game the AZ stopper frustrated the Selecao forward line and especially Neymar; the 18 year old seeing myriad through balls and crosses taken off his bootlaces by the Argentine.
Argentina however were now playing with much more direction, helped by the entrance of Ezequiel Lavezzi for Higuain. The Napoli star surged down the right after 56 minutes and crossed in dangerously, leading to penalty shouts from the 'Albiceleste' after Javier Pastore shot into Thiago Silva's mid-section.
The second period also saw the first signs of indiscipline from both sides, as the tension grew while the pace of the game slowed somewhat. Ever Banega was in the thick of things for Argentina, taking exception to some over-zealous marking by Ramires before cutting down Neymar to concede a dangerous free kick, as the game entered its final 20 minutes.
The majority of the half passed with half chances and openings from both teams, but with very little in the way of concrete opportunities. Dani Alves and Ronaldinho both went close from dead ball situations, while Alves did brilliantly to rob the ball from Messi when it appeared the little maestro was set to unleash his magic from close in. As the substitutes started coming thick and fast however, and players such as Pastore, Ronaldinho and Neymar were given a few more minutes of rest, it seemed that both coaches would go home content with a scoreless tie.
Just as the game was in its dying stages though that man Messi popped up to hand Argentina a stunning win. The genius attacker picked up the ball near halfway and surged towards goal, before firing left-footed past Victor. The win marks the perfect start for Batista as permanent Argentina coach, while questions still remain over the Albiceleste's defensive quality.