Lionel Messi’s expertly taken double helped seal a comprehensive 3-0 win for Argentina over Honduras in Miami on Friday to extend their impressive unbeaten run ahead of the Qatar World Cup.
The Argentina captain scored a goal in each half, his opener doubling the lead given to Lionel Scaloni’s team by Lautaro Martinez early on.
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Argentina haven’t lost in 34 matches heading into Tuesday’s game against Jamaica in New York.
With their last defeat coming in the 2019 Copa America semi-final, the thousands of Argentina fans who packed Hard Rock Stadium in a crowd of 64,420 were in an expectant mood and left delighted as a combative Honduran side were firmly put to the sword.
“The game was what we expected,” Argentina coach Scaloni said. “I am satisfied with that.
“As far as players who didn’t play, as a coach I have to manage minutes and rest some players. Most important thing is that whoever plays proves they can belong and can play.”
Honduras failed to qualify for Qatar and were under pressure from the off, Alejandro Gomez blazing an early effort over before Rodrigo De Paul screwed a shot just wide.
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The South Americans were dominating possession with Messi beginning to weave some magic despite being tightly man marked by the Honduran defence.
And it was the Paris St.Germain forward who started the move which created the opener for Martinez on 16 minutes, an excellent pass freeing Gomez on the left hand side and his cross was tapped home with ease.
Honduras were undeterred, however, and even though they saw little of the ball, the challenges were flying in, much to the anger of an increasingly irritated Argentina side who were left constantly complaining to the officials.
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A pull on Giovani Lo Celso’s shirt however on the stroke of half-time was deemed a penalty by referee Rubiel Vazquez and Messi coolly rolled in the penalty to double the lead for Scaloni’s men.
The former Barcelona star, who played for the full 90 minutes, remained in the thick of the action and almost grabbed his second on 56 minutes but failed to finish off an excellent, free-flowing move when his shot sailed over the bar.
– Messi brings house down –
Julian Alvarez, the Manchester City striker, was introduced in the second half and was denied by Honduras keeper Luis Fernandez as Argentina searched for further goals to reinforce their total dominance.
It was left to Messi to bring the house down with a brilliant lofted finish over Fernandez on 69 minutes to leave the result in no doubt.
Argentina face Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland in Group C at the World Cup and, on this evidence albeit against limited opposition, will arrive in Qatar as one of the favourites to lift the trophy.
Even with the world Cup looming, Scaloni said it was key that his players enjoy themselves.
“The Argentine national team whenever we play, it’s a huge responsibility, but we need to enjoy it, the fans need to enjoy it,” he said.
“At the end of the day, it’s a game. The important thing is to play the way we want to play and for people to enjoy it. That is more important than the result.”
Honduras coach Diego Vasquez said his side would “take the positives” from the match.
“Obviously we knew the rival we were going to face,” he said. “If they scored three goals in a final against Italy, it’s not that drastic or bad that they scored three on Honduras. They scored six goals against Estonia, so they scored less against us than one might expect.
“We have to accept the difference between a World Cup team like Argentina with so many prestigious players and our team. We have to respect the reality, but we are not satisfied or happy. We will take the positives and keep growing.”