Argentina remain alive in the World Cup after beating Mexico in a scrappy game settled by goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez.
Lionel Messi was once again Argentina’s saviour with the breakthrough goal in a 2-0 win over Mexico at Lusail Stadium to ignite his side’s World Cup campaign.
After Poland’s 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Argentina need to avoid defeat against Mexico if they are to exit the competition after just two games.
Argentina overcame a shock 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia thanks to Messi’s long-range pass after 64 minutes and Enzo Fernandez’s equally impressive late strike.
Lionel Scaloni’s men join Saudi Arabia on three points and are one point behind Group C leaders Poland, who they face in their final game, while Mexico are a point below.
Argentina made five changes after the opening loss, three of them in defence, and failed to score a meaningful try in the first half.
Mexico came closest to opening the scoring before the break with Alexis Vega’s free-kick calling Emiliano Martinez into action.
The quality improved only marginally in the second half, but out of nowhere Messi controlled Angelo Di Maria’s pass and fired a low shot past Guillermo Ochoa from 25 yards.
The strike took Messi level with fellow great Diego Maradona on eight World Cup goals for Argentina, who added the second through substitute Fernandez.
With three minutes remaining, the Benfica midfielder received a pass from Messi following a short corner, worked his way into the box before curling into the top corner from Ochoa.
Argentina vs Mexico player ratings – World Cup
1. Argentina (4-4-2)
GK: Emi Martinez – 6/10 – Impressively held onto a swirling free kick rather than beating it away.
RB: Gonzalo Montiel – 5/10 – Chugged up and down the wing with more function than flair.
CB: Nicolas Otamendi – 5/10 – At home in this scrappy contest but too often belted the ball away when put under pressure.
CB: Lisandro Martinez – 4/10 – Stepping forward with the ball but scarcely incisive from that position.
LB: Marcos Acuna – 3/10 – Got away with a sneaky set of studs sunk into Kevin Alvarez’s calf in the first half.
RM: Angel Di Maria – 6/10 – Wandered around even more nomadically than Messi, flittering in and out of the game.
CM: Rodrigo De Paul – 3/10 – The lofty stakes of the setting seemed to be most prevalent in the mind of De Paul, who stormed around with a manic urgency which didn’t help anyone.
CM: Guido Rodriguez – 5/10 – Dropping right between the centre-backs, creating a back-three when Argentina have the ball to release the fullbacks.
LM: Alexis Mac Allister – 5/10 – Floating infield when Argentina are on the ball, Mac Allister kept his passing safe.
ST: Lionel Messi – 7/10 – Whenever he wriggled past one green shirt there seemed to be another eagerly waiting his turn to snap at his heels. Given a pocket of space, Messi hauled Argentina to victory.
ST: Lautaro Martinez – 4/10 – The one fixed point in Argentina’s attack, Lautaro was limited to snatched flickers of goal.
SUB: Enzo Fernandez (57′ for Rodriguez) – 7/10 – Provided the second moment of quality in the match.
SUB: Julian Alvarez (63′ for Martinez) – 5/10
SUB: Nahuel Molina (63′ for Montiel) – 5/10
SUB: Cristian Romero (70′ for Di Maria) – N/A
SUB: Exequiel Palacios (70′ for Mac Allister) – N/A
Manager: Lionel Scaloni – 4/10 – This was not a victory of tactical wizardry. Argentina looked lost until Messi fired them ahead. Could take a morsel of credit by introducing a substitute who scored but that would be a stretch.
2. Mexico (3-5-2)
GK: Guillermo Ochoa – 5/10 – A little shaky when coming for high balls but not overly troubled.
CB: Nestor Araujo – 6/10 – Guilty of some full-blooded tackles which may have actually drawn blood as he took a forceful approach.
CB: Cesar Montes – 7/10 – Sweeping up any scraps as the deepest of Mexico’s back three.
CB: Hector Moreno – 6/10 – Carried out his defensive duties without much fuss.
RWB: Kevin Alvarez – 5/10 – Skirted around the fringes of a scratchy contest.
CM: Hector Herrera – 7/10 – Not overly decisive in possession but a constant spoke in Argentina’s wheel.
CM: Luis Chavez – 7/10 – Scurrying and scuttling with enduring diligence.
CM: Andres Guardado – N/A – Ratting around midfield venomously before injury forced him off in the first half.
LWB: Jesus Gallardo – 5/10 – Struggled to pin down Di Maria when lured into a one-on-one.
ST: Hirving Lozano – 5/10 – Diligent out of possession but didn’t prove to be the same nuisance when he had the ball.
ST: Alexis Vega – 6/10 – Selflessly haranguing Argentina’s backline off the ball.
SUB: Erick Gutierrez (42′ for Guardado) – 6/10 – Quickly caught up to the speed of the contest, matching the velocity demanded to close down the man in possession.
SUB: Raul Jimenez (66′ for Vega) – 5/10
SUB: Uriel Antuna (66′ for Alvarez) – 5/10
SUB: Robert Alvarado (73′ for Lozano) – N/A
Manager: Gerardo Martino – 5/10 – The Argentinian manager of Mexico set up his side to frustrate his home nation well for an hour but offered almost no threat going forward themselves.