Home » International, Latest » Match Report: Argentina 2 Portugal 1

This was billed as a prestigious friendly between two of football’s powerhouse nations, but nobody was fooled. In reality, this was all about Cristiano Ronaldo against Lionel Messi, the two best players in the world facing off.

The most famous time that Ronaldo went toe-to-toe with Messi, their joint images adorned the 2009 Champions League final programme underneath the tag line, ‘Who will be the heavyweight winner?’ On that occasion it was a no contest. Messi won by a mile.

The last time they came face-to-face in El Clasico in November, Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho and the rest suffered a Catalan caning, losing 5-0 in the Nou Camp.

On Wednesday night Messi just about shaded it again by dint of his last-minute winner from the spot.

Sepp Blatter realised that this game was all about Messi and Ronaldo. So too did the Conseil of the Canton of Geneva. It was in their welcome notes in Wednesday night’s match programmes. Even my taxi driver mentioned this en route to the stadium.

There were clearly plenty of kids afforded the opportunity – as I was – of being able to say they saw these two modern-day greats on the same pitch. Every time one or the other received the ball the tone of the shrieks was considerably higher.

But it soon became clear there were crucial differences apart from the fact that Messi’s bright orange boots made him stand out a mile. The Argentine is the one focal point of his team. All of the talents seemed to be drawn to him – to revolve around him – as though he is the very start, middle and end of everything they do.

Whereas others seem to think they can be the equal of Ronaldo. For instance, his former Manchester United team-mate Nani, who seemed determined to act as the party-pooper.

In the early stages it was Messi who took centre stage. He sent a seventh-minute header wide and then followed that up four minutes later by setting up Esteban Cambiasso.

The midfielder saw Eduardo block that effort but just moments later came the magic everyone had come to see.

Taking a ball out of the air on the full with that left foot, Messi cut infield. He evaded one tackle and a lunge by Liverpool’s Raul Meireles failed to stop him as well. He slipped the ball inside the Portugal right back and Angel di Maria finished simply.

The Madrid man will take acclaim for scoring but no one was in any doubt as to who should take most credit for the goal.

Ronaldo was trying his luck on both flanks, probing here and there in a bid to leave his mark. He had seen one shot deflected wide before his moment came.

Nani’s cross from the right was flicked on by Hugo Almeida and the former Manchester United star slammed the ball high into the roof of the net.

He did not celebrate. It was as if he did not feel it was worthy after Messi’s earlier brilliance. But moments later he showed the skill for which he has rightly become famous. A lung-busting 50-yard run in which he beat three men was followed by a shot just wide.

His threat was growing and the Argentinians knew it. Javier Mascherano hacked him down as half-time approached. It did not stop him. Within seconds of the restart he reverted to good, old-fashioned wing play and swung over a cross that Almeida somehow nodded on to the crossbar from two yards.

The last-minute winner by Messi gave him the honours, but the capacity crowd who sat in sub-zero temperatures were just pleased to have seen the two best players in the world in the flesh.

Source: DailyMail

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