Wednesday June 25 2014
Argentina pip Nigeria thriller

Leo Messi and Ahmed Musa scored braces as Argentina beat Nigeria 3-2 in a pulsating match, but both teams qualify.

Messi’s men had already secured their spot in the Last 16, although defeat here would allow Nigeria to win the group. At the same time, the Super Eagles knew a heavy loss here and Iran beating Bosnia could see them knocked out, so it was a delicate balance.

Argentina had won both games so far despite poor performances, scraping late goals to paper over the cracks.

It took just three minutes for L’Albiceleste to break the deadlock, as Angel Di Maria thumped the upright and Messi was first on to the rebound.

However, within 60 seconds Nigeria had equalised thanks to a rapid counter that caught Argentina’s defence napping. Babatunde burst forward and spread to the left for a stunning Musa curler across Sergio Romero.

Gonzalo Higuain ran into the box, but the goalkeeper did enough to force his shot on to the side-netting. Di Maria also called Enyeama into a tough save, but Sergio Aguero hobbled off to make way for ex-Napoli striker Pocho Lavezzi.

Before the break Messi’s curling free kick was making its way into the near top corner until a splendid Enyeama save.

It was only a warning, as moments later Messi whipped a similar free kick into the same spot, this time Enyeama taken by surprise.

Nigeria started the second half with a bang, as Musa burst through the middle with a give-and-go to fire in at the near post with the Argentine defence caught napping.

Once again, there wasn’t long to wait and Argentina were back in front. Lavezzi put in the corner for Marcos Rojo to bundle over with his knee from close range.

John Obi Mikel passed it to Sergio Romero when a poor clearance came his way, wasting a golden opportunity. Messi was rested, making way for Inter’s Ricky Alvarez.

Lavezzi’s volley on a chipped Di Maria assist was again beaten away by the Nigerian goalkeeper and Ezequiel Garay went close, but at the other end Musa was only denied a hat-trick by a desperate Pablo Zabaleta block and Rojo charged down an Efe Ambrose effort.

Nigeria 2-3 Argentina

Scorers: Messi 3, 45 (A), Musa 4, 48 (N), Rojo 50 (A)

Nigeria: Enyeama; Yobo, Ambrose, Omeruo, Oshaniwa; Obi Mikel, Babatunde (Nwofor 65), Onazi; Odemwingie (Uche 81), Emenike, Musa

Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Fernandez, Garay, Rojo; Gago, Mascherano, Di Maria; Messi (Alvarez 63), Higuain (Biglia 90), Aguero (Lavezzi 37)

Ref: Rizzoli (ITA)

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