Lionel Messi didn’t find the back of the net—and at times looked just plain bored—as Argentina cruised to a 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.
Right from the opening kick-off the pattern of the match was established. The Albicelestes were going to control possession and look to complete ambitious pieces of buildup play while their island rivals looked to hit them on the break.
Messi, who missed a handful of chances, pulled his first shot just wide of the target after only 11 minutes, and nine minutes later he and Angel di Maria combined to set up Ezequiel Lavezzi, who couldn’t quite connect at the far post.
Di Maria, who was Argentina’s most encouraging player of the night, then chipped a delightful pass to Rodrigo Palacio, but the Inter Milan forward mistimed his run to the corner.
Trinidad and Tobago, meanwhile, might have scored twice if not for the wits of Hugo Armando Campagnaro and Martin Demichelis, the latter of whom raced back into his own end to poke the ball of Kenwyne Jones’ boot with only the goalkeeper for the Cardiff City striker to beat.
But from there it was all Argentina, and when Messi was denied by Yohance Marshall at point-blank range it seemed only a matter of time before they would open the scoring.
Finally, in the second minute of first-half stoppage time, Palacio turned in a corner kick and the two-time World Cup winners were on their way.
They doubled their advantage just six minutes after the restart.
Messi, who had lined up a free-kick from about 19 yards, hit the upright with his effort but watched as teammate Javier Mascherano, almost accidentally, deflected the rebound past Marvin Phillip.
At this point there was no doubt about the outcome, and in the 65th minute Palacio hunted down a long pass, rounded Phillip, did well to keep the ball inside the playing area and then cut it back to substitute attacker Maxi Rodriguez, who made no mistake with his first-time effort.
Both managers took the opportunity to experiment after that, and Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella introduced Enzo Perez, Ricardo Alvarez and Augusto Fernandez in short order.
By the time Messi ran himself just offside in the 78th minute, the hosts knew they had done enough, and at the final whistle they were well worth the three-goal cushion at Estadio Monumental.
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Lionel Messi addressed the press after Wednesday's victory over Trinidad and Tobago, per the Daily Mail.
We ended the game well. The main thing was to avoid injuries and catch some rhythm and confidence for what's ahead.
The Barcelona maestro also spoke to the omission of his friend, Ever Banega, from Argentina's World Cup squad.
Players who didn't make final squad? It was hard, Ever [Banega] is a close friend of mine, but coach has to make decisions.