Banega, Lanzini win it for Messi-less Agentina

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 Mar 2018 11:20:19



EVER Banega ensured Argentina weren’t derailed by Lionel Messi’s absence as the World Cup contenders clinched a 2-0 win over Italy in a friendly at the Etihad Stadium.
Messi reportedly suffered an groin strain in training on Thursday, so the Barcelona forward was an unused substitute as Argentina kicked off their preparations for the World Cup in June.

Ahead of a busy end to the domestic season and then the World Cup, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi wasn’t going to risk aggravating his injury. Without their talismanic star, Jorge Sampaoli’s side showed they have strength in depth with a solid display capped by late goals from Banega and Manuel Lanzini.

Having edged through to the World Cup thanks to Messi’s treble in a 3-1 win over Ecuador in October, Argentina are focused on peaking in Russia, where they will play Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria in the group stage.
Clearly they need Messi to have any chance of lifting the trophy, but, with Sergio Aguero also sidelined by injury, Sampaoli will be encouraged by the performance of his understudies.

“We played this game as a final,” said Sampaoli, who is set to be without Angel Di Maria for next week’s friendly against Spain after he suffered a thigh injury.
“The team had a lot of stability and the collective level was very good.”

Italy remain in turmoil after failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
It was an emotional evening for the Azzurri as they played for the first time since their defender Davide Astori died of a suspected cardiac arrest earlier this month.
“We suffered with their control of possession and lost some shape,” Italy boss Luigi Di Biagio said.
“We deserved more in the second half but let’s not forget who we were up against.

“The group must develop. There are a lot of youngsters who need experience.
Ronaldo’s last-gasp two-goal show steals Salah limelight
CRISTIANO Ronaldo hit two goals in stoppage time as European champions Portugal defeated Egypt 2-1 in a international friendly, winning his personal duel with Mohamed Salah who had put the seven-time African champions ahead.

Ronaldo, appearing in his 900th career match, made his mark to devastating effect as time ran out.
First, he pulled his team level with a header from a Ricardo Quaresma cross, before adding the winner in almost identical circumstances in the fourth minute of injury time.
However, the 33-year-old Real Madrid star had to wait for the VAR system to validate his goal after a suspicion of offside. His two-goal salvo took his Portugal tally to 81.
Earlier, Salah, who has shone at Liverpool this season with 28 Premier League goals, broke the deadlock in Zurich after 56 minutes.

After a quickfire exchange of passes, Abdallah El Said found Salah in space for his team-mate to beat Beto in the Portuguese goal with a sweetly-timed left-foot strike from the edge of the area.
“In the last minutes we were better, created four chances and showed great determination to turn it around. They showed that they did not want to lose,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

“And with Ronaldo, it’s about a goal and another goal.”
Ronaldo had two first-half chances blocked as he tried to continue his impressive recent form which had seen him score 18 goals in his last nine La Liga games, including registering a 50th hat-trick.
Salah was replaced late in the game by Shikabala and Portugal sensed a chance to grab a share of the spoils.
Quaresma, meanwhile, saw a 72nd minute attempt saved by Mohamed El-Shenawy in the Egypt goal while Bruno Alves saw a close-range header from a corner drift wide of the goal.

Shikabala had a fierce shot saved by Beto diving high to his right before Alves’s frustrations boiled over late in the game with a yellow card.
But with time running out, Ronaldo had the final say as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner moved into third place on the all-time list of international goal scorers.
Legendary Hungarian striker Ferenc Puskas scored 84 goals while Iran’s Ali Daei leads the list with 109 goals in 149 internationals.

Egypt, back at a World Cup for the first time since 1990, will play in Group A at the finals this summer with hosts Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia.
Portugal are in Group B and will face Spain, Morocco and Iran.