Messi breaks Iranian hearts

by | Jun 21, 2014 18:57

Argentina were poor and risked several Iran goals, including a penalty, but Leo Messi’s last-gasp scorcher decided the victory.

Argentina were poor and risked several Iran goals, including a penalty, but Leo Messi’s last-gasp scorcher decided the victory.

Following a less than enthralling 2-1 win over Bosnia, Coach Alejandro Sabella switched to a 4-3-3 formation, throwing on Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain from the start. Iran held Nigeria to a goalless draw and were hoping to frustrate the Albiceleste too.

Remarkably, it was Iran who had the first chance after four minutes when a free kick was whipped to the back post for Jalal Hosseini, but the defender didn’t make clean enough contact with it.

The pressure built and Alireza Haghighi rushed off his line to smother at Higuain’s feet, then performed a one-handed save on Sergio Aguero’s curler.

Lionel Messi had several free kicks off target, but one of them found Ezequiel Garay for a free header over from four yards. Iran had a similar chance, as Hosseini nodded over from close range on a corner.

Argentina could boast 79 per cent possession in the first half, but had done precious little with it. After the restart Aguero got his head to a Rojo cross, but not enough power to redirect it.

Iran proved they were still very much in the game with a great scoring opportunity on 52 minutes. Iran went on a rapid counter and Reza Ghoochannejad’s diving header forced a tough save out of Sergio Romero.

Moments later they had strong penalty appeals waved away for a Pablo Zabaleta sliding tackle on Ashkan Dejagah that would also have been a straight red.

Messi and a deflected Haji Safi attempt went wide and from that corner Iran theatened again. On 67 minutes Dejagah got in front of his marker for a smart header that Sampdoria goalkeeper Romero had to fingertip out from under the bar.

Iran were actually out-playing Argentina, as Messi again only hit the side-netting with a free kick and Inter striker Rodrigo Palacio’s cushioned header forced a save.

Once again, Reza Ghoochannejad had a fantastic chance to win it late on with a classic counter, but after out-sprinting two defenders he stung Romero’s gloves.

However, Argentina clung on and won it with a moment of magic in stoppages. As against Bosnia, Messi did precious little except for one move, in this case curling an unstoppable effort into the far bottom corner.

Argentina 1-0 Iran

Scorers: Messi 91 (A)

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Garay, F Fernandez, Rojo; Gago, Mascherano, Di Maria (Biglia 93); Messi, Higuain (Palacio 77), Aguero (Lavezzi 77)

Iran: Haghighi; Hosseini, Sadeghi, Montazeri, Pooladi; Dejagah (Alireza 85), Timotian, Nekounam, Haji Safi (Haghighi 88); Shojaei (Heydari 76); Ghoochannejad

Ref: Mazic (SRB)

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