Messi Scores Hat-trick As Argentina Demolish Haiti 4-0
The encounter was a farewell match for the Argentinian football crazy fans as the team head to the World Cup set to get underway in Russia next month, and Messi was on hand to give the fans exactly what they wanted by scoring a wonderful hat-trick in Buenos Aires on Tuesday.
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The three goals took Messi’s goal haul for the Argentine national team to 64 goals in 124 appearances, it took just 17 minutes for the Barcelona star to break the deadlock through a penalty against the Caribbean minnows.
The very wide gulf in class was obvious in Buenos Aires right from the blast of the whistle, where 103 spots separated fifth-ranked Argentina and Haiti.
Haiti struggled to contain Argentina from the outset and the 2014 World Cup finalists, who tackle Nigeria, Croatia and Iceland in Group D of the World Cup in Russia, showed their superiority on the scoreboard when Lo Celso was brought down in the penalty area under a rash challenge from Ricardo Ade.
Messi, as usual, stepped up and converted the spot-kick but only just after Haiti goalkeeper Johny Placide got a hand to the ball as it sealed into the net for the opener.
It was almost 2-0 five minutes later but Placide dived low to deny Juventus’ Higuain, who engineered enough space to get a shot on target.
Argentina continued to control proceedings as Haiti offered nothing going forward and the South American giants went so close to a stunning goal approaching the half-hour mark when Lo Celso picked out Di Maria with an inch-perfect lofted ball over the visitors’ defence, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward’s volley sailed just wide of the post.
It was a relatively subdued start to the second half amid a couple of substitutions but Messi brought the match back to life in the 58th minute.
Lo Celso’s close-range header was saved by Placide after Higuain rode a challenge to pick out the PSG midfielder, however, Messi was on hand to side-foot the rebound home.
Messi was on hand to collect the match ball in the 66th minute when he controlled a cutback from substitute Cristian Pavon and fired powerfully past Placide.
Argentina showed no mercy as Messi turned provider, as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner then set up substitute and Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero with 21 minutes remaining at La Bombonera, playing through Aguero to make it 4-0. Haiti did not register a single shot in the match.
There could have been more goals but Argentina was wasteful during the closing stages as attention turned to June 9’s friendly against Israel.
Javier Mascherano joined Javier Zanetti as Argentina’s most-capped player in his 143rd international appearance and the former Barcelona utility player was honoured for reaching the milestone just before the match started.
Mascherano was one of five survivors from the starting XI that faced Spain in March’s 6-1 humiliation, as Gonzalo Higuain, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico and Giovani Lo Celso retained by Jorge Sampaoli as Messi returned alongside Angel Di Maria.