Portugal beats Argentina 1-0 with injury-time goal
Manchester, England: The highly anticipated duel between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo fell flat as the world's two best players lasted just 45 minutes of Portugal's last-gasp 1-0 win over Argentina in an international friendly on Tuesday.
With Messi and Ronaldo substituted at halftime after low-key performances, many in the crowd at a half-full Old Trafford had lost interest by the time Raphael Guerreiro dived to head in the winning goal in the first minute of injury time.
Stationed on the right wing, Messi only showed glimpses of the brilliance he produces regularly for Barcelona, although he struck a close-range shot against the post in the 11th minute. Ronaldo's presence was even more fleeting for Portugal at the ground where he spent six years playing with distinction for Manchester United from 2003-09.
Aside from a neat back-flick near the halfway line and blazing a shot over the bar from 10 meters out, Ronaldo barely made an impression -- except for when he missed the ball with a swing of his famous right boot and kicked Argentina midfielder Lucas Biglia in the stomach instead.
This was hardly a night when the great rivals demonstrated their credentials ahead of the latest FIFA world player of the year vote, and there was a smattering of boos when it was announced at the start of the second half that they would not be reappearing.
It was the 27th time Messi and Ronaldo came up against against each other -- and surely the most underwhelming.
"We had planned with Lionel after he played the whole match (of last week's 2-1 win) against Croatia that he should only take part in the opening 45 minutes," Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said.
Guerreiro's goal came from the only clear-cut chance Portugal created. A long-range shot deflected off Eder and rebounded out to the right wing, where Ricardo Quaresma controlled and crossed for the substitute striker to head unmarked past Argentina goalkeeper Naheul Guzman from six meters.
"We knew when we play against a team like that, it is very difficult," said Portugal midfielder Nani, who is currently on loan from United at Sporting Lisbon. "We defended the result but tried to win the game as well, and in the end we had a bit of pressure and we won the game."
Nani left his mark on his return to Old Trafford, stamping on the right foot of Argentina midfielder Angel Di Maria -- the man replaced Nani in the United squad this season. Di Maria required treatment but played on.
"It was a tough blow, a tough knock," Martino said. "It actually cut the skin a little bit. We are having a look at some x-rays that were taken, but we don't think that it is too serious."
Martino has lost two of his five matches in charge of Argentina since taking over after the World Cup in Brazil.