It certainly wasn’t the prettiest or most difficult of Lionel Messi’s international goals but the Argentina captain, back from his three-month ban, proved decisive in La Albiceleste’s victory over Brazil in Riyadh.
Suspended since the Copa América for questioning CONMEBOL’s impartiality, Messi marked his return with the game’s only goal after 13 minutes, pouncing on the rebound after Alisson had saved his initial penalty.
Bundled over by Alex Sandro, Messi won Argentina’s spot-kick only minutes after Brazil had squandered their own chance from 12 yards. Juan Foyth giving away possession in the penalty area and Leandro Paredes tripping Gabriel Jesus only for the Manchester City striker to roll his penalty wide of the target.
The action-packed opening soon gave way for a scrappy and disjointed affair with neither side really able to keep possession and carve out opportunities.
Messi tested Alisson just before the break with a low shot following a burst from halfway but the Liverpool goalkeeper proved equal to anything thrown at him from then on.
Brazil may have seen more possession but Argentina were the far more dangerous after half time and probably should have made the result more comfortable.
A couple of trademark Messi free-kicks were saved by Alisson and the Brazil number one was also alert to tip over Leandro Paredes’ powerful long range effort but Lautaro Martínez wasted the best chance, blazing over from inside the penalty area.
Even when Brazil were chasing the game in the closing stages, Esteban Andrada was never troubled in the Argentina goal and Lionel Scaloni’s side comfortable held on for the win.
Argentina are scheduled to play Uruguay in Israel on Tuesday and have a renewed sense of confidence since the Copa América quite opposed to Brazil, who haven’t won in the five games since lifting the title on home soil.