ARGENTINA 0, PORTUGAL 1
RAPHAEL GUERREIRO INJURY TIME HEADER WINS IT FOR PORTUGAL AGAINST RUN OF PLAY
LIONEL MESSI AND CRISTIANO RONALDO PLAY 45 MINUTES EACH
MESSI HITS THE POST WHILE RONALDO CAN’T FIND WAY PAST LUCAS BIGLIA
MEXICAN WAVE AND PITCH INVADER THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE SECOND HALF UNTIL THE GOAL
A half full Old Trafford witnessed an Argentina v Portugal encounter billed as Messi v Ronaldo with tickets at upwards of £60 but which failed to reach the heights despite enthusiastic prompting from the crowd and a dramatic injury time goal from 20-year old Portuguese substitute left back Raphael Guerreiro whose flying header was the best moment of an otherwise poor second half.
And there was a significant interest for Manchester-based fans as Angel Di Maria started the game for Argentina while Sporting Lisbon’s on-loan Old Trafford winger Nani started for Portugal.
Only Martin Demichelis of City’s Argentine foursome (including Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta, and Willy Caballero) started, although Aguero was welcomed with a chorus of boos by the Old Trafford crowd as he emerged from the tunnel ahead of the teams to take his place on the bench. It later emerged that Messi’s half time substitution was planned by the Argentina manager Gerardo Martino after he had played a full game against Croatia last week.
It was clear from the outset that the Portuguese fans outnumbered the Argentine fans and the Portugal manager Fernando Santos admitted that his Portugal side had a poor start and no chances to score until the very end of the game.
Argentina were comfortably on top as an attacking force throughout the majority of the game but there were moments of tension through the game, most notably when Di Maria was scythed down by Nani – an ironic moment which had the onlooking Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal wincing.
The Dutchman has already had to endure the bad news of a trio of injuries during the international break with a dislocated finger for David De Gea, suspected ligament damage for Daley Blind and Michael Carrick’s groin injury.
The big money draw for this game, though, was certainly the return of Cristiano Ronaldo and his ability to draw a big audience to a friendly.
He might have got the bigger applause from the partisan crowd but Cristiano Ronaldo was almost upstaged by his Argentine rival Lionel Messi whose 12th minute shot hit the woodwork after he had exchanged passes with Lucas Biglia.
Ronaldo had some fun with the crowd but couldn’t carve himself a chance in the 29th minute when Facundo Roncaglia’s slip allowed a cross to reach the Portugese frontman but no amount of twists and turns could open up a clear angle to shoot past Lucas Biglia who had got back to cover.
In any event, the Messi and Ronaldo show lasted just 45 minutes as both were withdrawn at half time with Ronaldo inevitably basking in a glowing round of applause from the Old Trafford crowd who perhaps sensed that their former talisman wasn’t coming back after the break.
The substitutions kept coming in the second half and although there was a mixed reception for the arrival of Carlos Tevez, a controversial figure for both sides of the Manchester divide, the most notable action was a well observed Mexican wave which circled the crowd at Old Trafford several times as the game died on its feet.
A pitch invader wearing Argentine colours was the other moment of interest before the goal.
Argentina retained the initiative, though, and grew in confidence during the second half as Portugal withdrew.
Ricardo Quaresma, a second half substitute, wasted Portugal’s most presentable chance in the 82nd minute when his attempt to sidefoot a 30 yard free kick was sliced well wide of the action.
It summed up the second half for the Portuguese when Joao Moutinho’s attempt to control a cross into the penalty area came off his foot and hit his hand before going out of play.
It’s not often that people stay till the end of 90 minutes at Old Trafford but the Portugal fans remaining had a goal to cheer when Raphael Guerreiro’s flying header beat the otherwise underemployed Nahuel Guzman in injury time after the Argentine ‘keeper had been wrong-footed by an earlier deflection in the build-up.
It had been Portugal’s only shot on target in a match that had been otherwise dominated by Argentina.