The little magician capped off a wonderful move involving fellow substitutes Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria to put the gloss on a polished performance from Argentina.
The first half was played at a pedestrian pace with only glimmers of quality from Argentina to brighten up the half.
Ricardo Alvarez’s 12th minute dribble to the penalty area and finish was the only moment of quality before Maxi Rodriguez in the 34th minute unleashed a piledriver which forced the Slovenian goalkeeper to make a fingertip save onto the crossbar.
In the second half, Alejandro Sabella brought on the cavalry as Messi, Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero came on and provided the fans with something to shout about.
Di Maria scooped a lovely ball over the defence to Aguero who nodded the ball first time to Messi who from close range couldn’t miss the target with 61 gone.
The only sour note of the game was a first half injury to Lucas Biglia who looked distraught at picking up the knock and will be hoping not to miss the World Cup next week.
12’ – WHAT A GOAL! – A goal from very little as Ricky Alvarez picks the ball up just inside the Slovenia half. Under no pressure he dribbles to the edge of the penalty area where he shifts it onto his left foot before unleashing a low shot into the bottom corner.
26’ – BAD MISS! – Maxi Rodriguez gets laid in by Mascherano inside the Slovenia penalty area. Under no pressure he has just the keeper to beat but he scuffs the shot and Belec is down low to save.
34’ – SUPER SAVE! – Maxi Rodriguez again as he picks up the ball just outside the penalty area. He sends a piledriver headed into the top corner but Belec gets fingertips on it to push the ball onto the crossbar.
55’ – ANOTHER TOP SAVE! – Belec gets down low to deny Alvarex again as he is laid in at close range by Lavezzi.
76’ – LOVELY TEAM GOAL! – Messi caps off a lovely move started by Di Maria who scooped the ball over the defence to Aguero who nodded the ball down to the little maestro to tap in from close range.
Messi scored his 38th goal for his country.
Slovenia managed just two shots on target all game.
Do Argentina rely on their magic front line too much?: Going forward Argentina looked dangerous almost every time but defensively there were some lapses in concentration and sloppy passing which against better sides than Slovenia could mean World Cup heartbreak.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Javier Mascherano – Sensational today. Picked up a yellow card but was both the deep-lying creative force for his side as well as the midfield enforcer not allowing Slovenia a sniff of good attacking play. Overall excellent performance.
Argentina: Romero 7, Mascherano 9, Fede Fernandez 7, Basanta 7, Rojo 8, Biglia n/a , A. Fernandez 7, Enzo Perez 7, Rodriguez 7, Lavezzi 7, Alvarez 8. Subs: Campagnaro 7, Messi 8, Aguero 8, Di Maria 8, Gago 7.
Slovenia: Belec 8, Brecko 7, Samardzic 7, Cesar 7, Jokic 7, Kirm 6, Kurtic 6, Stevanovic 6, Rotman 6, Ilicic 6, Novakovic 7. Subs: Pecnic 6, Lazarevic 7, Firer 6, Balazic 7, Mertejl 7.
- Sports & Recreation
- Lionel Messi
- Sergio Aguero
- Angel Di Maria
- Maxi Rodriguez