Wed, Sep 12, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Lionel Messi mesmerizes as Argentina beat Aussies

AP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

Argentina players celebrate after Martin Demichelis scored against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Bayern Munich midfielder Martin Demichelis scored the lone goal of a closely contested international friendly yesterday to give a star-studded Argentina a 1-0 win over Australia.

Demichelis scored in the 49th minute when he found himself unmarked in the goalmouth and headed home a looping free kick from Barcelona winger Lionel Messi near the sideline.

Messi dazzled the 70,000-plus fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with a relentless display of skill and speed until he was substituted one minute into injury time. The man many pundits have dubbed the heir to Argentina great Maradona looked dangerous virtually every time he touched the ball.

Both teams held little back in an attacking first half that failed to produce a goal despite offering plenty of scoring opportunities for both teams.

Australia had two chances of scoring off a free kick in the 8th minute after Archie Thomson was brought down by Javier Macherano just outside the area. Mark Bresciano's first shot sailed over the crossbar, but the referee called for the kick to be retaken, ruling that Demichelis came off the wall early

Messi eluded two defenders and looked certain to score for Argentina in the 15th minute before defender David Carney cleared the ball into touch. Argentina then failed to convert the resulting corner kick.

Messi looked dangerous again two minutes later when he powered 25m shot into the left hand post as a diving Mark Schwarzer fell short.

Palermo midfielder Bresciano again came close to scoring in the 25th minute when he drove a 30m spot kick over the heads of the Argentine wall into the crossbar. The ball rebounded off the crossbar into the head of goalkeeper Oscar Ustari, hit the woodwork again and bounced into Ustari's back before finally leaving the field of play.

The two teams continued to play attacking soccer after Demichelis' goal as Australia refused to lift the pressure, forcing Argentina to push for another goal.

Argentina are looking to rebuild some confidence ahead of their World Cup qualifying campaign after losing 3-0 to Brazil in the Copa America final in July.

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