Magical Messi hat-trick decides clasico thriller
East Rutherford (New Jersey): A wonderful hat-trick from Lionel Messi was the key for Argentina as they earned a fabulous 4-3 victory over South American rivals Brazil.
The brilliant No. 10 had dragged his team back into the game to lead at half time, after Romulo handed the Selecao an early advantage.
Goals from Oscar and Hulk looked to have swung the balance once more in the favour of Mano Menezes` men after the break, but Federico Fernandez turned in a towering header to once more equalise. That set the stage for the Barcelona star to hit his third of the evening, skipping past the Brazil back line before giving Rafael no chance in goal with his long-range effort.
The teams were greeted by a raucous capacity crowd in New Jersey, the MetLife stadium a mosaic of Canarinha and Albiceleste shirts as the great rivals took the field. Despite fielding a side predominately composed of Under-23 players and having been deprived of the injured Thiago Silva, it was a Brazil team inspired by the dynamic Neymar who dominated the first exchanges.
The Santos wonderkid threatened Sergio Romero`s goal early with a shot from the edge of the area after wriggling free of his markers, and Hulk also had a great effort in the opening 15 minutes saved by Sergio Romero. It was Neymar`s free kick that set up the first goal of the evening; the youngster chipped the ball into the box and, with Argentina`s defence motionless, Romulo was free to control and shoot home across the body of Romera.
Argentina looked short of attacking ideas early on, the absence of Aguero in favour of Jose Sosa diminishing the offensive threat which lit up the Estadio Monumental against Ecuador. With Lionel Messi in the team, however, goals are never too far away. Messi latched on to a weighted pass from Gonzalo Higuain and cut through the centre of Brazil`s back line, slotting past Rafael Cabral to level proceedings.
`La Pulga` hit again just minutes later, in an almost carbon copy of the first goal. Angel Di Maria this time spotted the gap between novice defensive pairing Juan and Bruno Uvini, and Messi took it alone once more to round Cabral and send his side into half time 2-1 up.
Brazil redoubled their efforts after the break having been unlucky to trail, and with 10 minutes of the half played found the equaliser. Oscar punished a previous moment of profligacy from Higuain by setting up a neat move with Leandro Damiao to burst into the box, and finished calmly past Romero for his first international goal and the leveller.
The Argentine defence did not convince all evening, and another howler led to Brazil`s third. Sergio Romero was this time at fault, the goalkeeper dropping a cross almost at the feet of Hulk to give the Porto man the simplest of finishes. Alejandro Sabella realised it was time to chase the game, and threw on Sergio Aguero to restore the attacking trio.
The switch had an instant impact. Kun`s corner was met by Federico Fernandez who powered in a header to once more peg the score back level with just 15 minutes left on the clock.
It was then time for Messi to decide proceedings; seconds after forcing an acrobatic save from Rafael, the Argentine captain went one better as he skipped past the defence from wide on the right wing before, in a goal reminiscent of the winner netted against the same opposition in 2010, powering the ball past the helpless keeper to make it 4-3.
A late sending off for substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi just three minutes after entering the field was a disappointing way for the game to end, following a brilliant hour and a half of attacking football. It did little to discourage those wearing Albiceleste in the stands or on the pitch, however, as the Seleccion celebrated being on the right side of a memorable seven-goal thriller.