Lautaro Martinez Powers Lionel Messi-Less Argentina Past Mexico in Dominant Win

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2019

Argentina's Lautaro Martinez (22) celebrates after scoring a goal against Mexico during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

No Lionel Messi, no problem for Argentina.

Even without its best playmaker, Argentina handled Mexico during a commanding 4-0 victory in Tuesday's international friendly at the Alamodome in San Antonio thanks in large part to Lautaro Martinez. Martinez provided the offensive spark without No. 10, scoring a hat trick in the first half and slicing through El Tri's defense with ease.

Leandro Paredes added another goal with a penalty kick, and goalkeeper Esteban Andrada was hardly tested.

Mexico looked nothing like the version of itself that was on display during Friday's 3-0 win over the United States.

Argentina looked quite different than it did in its last game as well, which was a scoreless tie against Chile on Thursday. Argentina struggled to create anything of note in the draw without Messi, who was suspended for three months from international matches after he criticized officiating and accused CONMEBOL of "corruption" during the Copa America, per ESPN.

El Tri took a physical approach against what appeared to be a listless offense coming in and racked up 10 fouls and two yellow cards (Edson Alvarez and Hector Herrera) in the first half alone.

The strategy didn't work at all, as Mexico's defense consistently collapsed against Martinez. He beat multiple defenders and opened the scoring in the 17th minute with a left-footed shot after a lackluster giveaway near midfield created the chance.

Martinez found the back of the net with his left foot again in the 22nd minute off a perfect through ball from Exequiel Palacios and then used his right foot from the center of the box in the 39th minute to extend the lead to a decisive 4-0.

The one common theme was defensive breakdowns from El Tri, including when Carlos Salcedo conceded a penalty with a handball to set up Paredes' goal. Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is typically a reliable performer, but he didn't have much of a chance on many of Argentina's early opportunities.

It was a shocking performance from Mexico given its recent success under head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino.

Tom Marshall of ESPN noted El Tri was 10-0-1 with 32 goals for and 10 goals against in their previous 11 games under the former Argentina national team player. They averaged 18 shots per game during that span while controlling 60 percent of the possession.

It wasn't just the offense that played so well, as Marshall also pointed out Argentina's opening goal was just the second first-half score Mexico conceded in its 12 games under Martino.

El Tri still controlled 63 percent of the possession during Tuesday's match but were unable to generate anything of note. They managed just four shots (one on goal) to the victor's 17 (seven on goal), as Argentina's defense was much stronger on the back end.

Mexico could at least take solace in the fact that Paulo Dybala replaced Martinez at the start of the second half, which slowed Argentina's relentless attack and likely prevented an even bigger margin of defeat. The damage was already done from El Tri's perspective, though, as not even Carlos Rodriguez or Marco Fabian could provide any fireworks for the losing side as second-half subs.

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What's Next?

Mexico faces Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 1, while Argentina squares off with Germany on Oct. 9. Both matches are international friendlies.

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