86 min The corner is again worked short by Argentina, but this time nothing comes of it.
86 min Paredes waves a majestic outside-of-the-boot pass to find Garnacho in space on the left. His low cross is put behind for an Argentina corner.
84 min The match is starting to peter out now.
82 min “Evening Rob,” writes Chris Paraskevas. “Australia haven’t looked too bad, but that does come with the asterisk that Argentina haven’t shifted out of first gear. And for all of our huff and puff, this Socceroos just doesn’t possess enough pace up front to really threaten the top teams. Irankunda and Kuol might have asked a few more questions of Argentina’s backline, who could have had enjoyed a cup of mate at times in this game (mate being the traditional herbal drink, not the Aussie colloquial).”
Yes, they’ve done some nice things – I really like the look of Bos – but ultimately the Argentina defence has been pretty comfortable. What do you think of the 4-2-2-2 system?
80 min Garnacho’s stinging long-range shot is blocked, and in fact the ball has burst in the process.
79 min A change for Argentina: Guido Rodriguez for Rodrigo De Paul.
78 min Messi slithers away from three players in a space the size of a phonebox, a glorious bit of skill that sets the stadium alight again.
77 min Australia haven’t created much in the second half, just that Baccus header really.
75 min Paredes’s first touch – well, his first contribution – is a cynical foul on Borrello. In a competitive game it would have been a yellow card.
74 min: Double substitution for Australia Leandro Paredes and the debutant Alejandro Garnacho replaces Gonzalez and Fernandez.
73 min: Triple substitution for Australia Alex Robertson, Ryan Strain and Connor Metcalfe replace Leckie, Atkinson and McGree.
71 min: Fine save by Ryan! Messi again combines with De Paul, this time on the right. Messi moves into the area and pokes the ball square to Alvarez, who slips one challenge and drives a precise low shot that is pushed round by the post by the diving Ryan.
When the corner is eventually taken, it eads to a second goal! Messi took it short and gave the ball to De Paul, whose beautiful dipping cross from the left was headed in by the unmarked Pezzella. It was an accomplished finish, flicked across Ryan on the stretch.
67 min There’s somebody on the pitch. At least I assume there is: the camera is focussing on Messi as he waits to take the corner, but you could see a load of stewards run past him and onto the field.
66 min Messi’s free-kick hits Rowles in the wall and flies a few yards wide.
65 min Messi dupes Genreau, 25 yards from goal, and is tripped. As he places the ball for the free-kick, the crowd start chanting his name again.
63 min: Double Australia substitution Brandon Borrello and Denis Genreau replace Mitch Duke, who hit the post in the first half, and Aiden O’Neill. I’ve been impressed with O’Neill. He started dreadfully, staggering all over the show in an attempt to stop Messi’s goal, but he grew into the game and has played some nice, crisp passes through midfield.
60 min Since about the 20th minute, Australia have played pretty well. I know it’s only a friendly but there’s a lot to encourage Graham Arnold.
59 min: Double substitution for Argentina Julian Alvarez and Giovani Lo Celso replace Di Maria and Mac Allister.
58 min After some pushing and shoving in the middle – astonishingly, Rodrigo De Paul was involved – Hrustic eventually takes the corner. Australia take it short and work it really neatly, with O’Brien’s lofted return pass freeing Hrustic on the right side of the area. His lobbed cross is met at the far post by Baccus, whose header is crucially blocked by Pezzella. Martinez then punches the loose ball away from Souttar in the six-yard box.
56 min Hrustic, in the inside-right channel, teases an excellent flat cross towards McGree at the far post. Molina gets in front to put the ball behind for a corner.
55 min Australia take a short corner on the left, only for Bos to be caught offside. Saying which, replays show it was a poor decision.
53 min A nice bit of play from Argentina’s veterans. Messi starts it with a good pass to release Di Maria on the right. He cuts inside, looks up and floats a cross back to Messi, who arrives late in the air but heads straight at Ryan from 12 yards.
51 min With Australia pressing high, Martinez launches a goalkick straight downfield. For a split second it looks like he has put Di Maria through on goal, but Souttar stretches to poke the bouncing ball back to Ryan. Fine defending.
49 min: Good save by Ryan Acuna’s overhit cross is clawed away by the stretching Ryan. Di Maria rattles the ball back towards goal from a tight angle, and Ryan springs to his feet to push it round the near post.
47 min Actually it looks like the same 4-2-2-2 for Australia. Meanwhile, Atkinson is booked for a lunging tackle on Gonzalez. He might have got the ball, but the referee didn’t think so. Once a foul was given it was a clear yellow card.
46 min Peep peep! Australia begin the second half. Both teams have made a change apiece: German Pezzella for Nicolas Otamendi, and Ajdin Hrustic for Jamie Maclaren. That probably means a change of system for the Socceroos.
As the players wander out for the second half, Lionel Messi happily signs an autograph… for one of the assistant referees. Erm, lads, that’s not how this is supposed to work.
“Why does Angel di Maria always remind me of The Scream by Edvard Munch?” asks Justin Kavanagh. “Maybe from his time in Manchester when his face was usually a picture of pain.”
Strange thing about that is that – like Juan Veron – he started brilliantly, which led to a lot of folk (me included) getting carried away. I can’t even remember why it went so wrong so quickly, beyond his dislike of Louis van Gaal and Manchester. Actually, that’s probably enough isn’t it.
Yeah I know it’s not soccer but what else are we going to talk about for the next six weeks?
That’s the end of an entertaining first half. Lionel Messi whipped Argentina ahead after 80 seconds, and it took Australia about 15 minutes to wake up. Once they did so they had some good moments going forward, mostly created by Riley McGree and Jordy Bos. Mitch Duke’s shot was pushed onto a post by Emi Martinez; at the other end, Messi missed an excellent chance to make it 2-0.
See you soon for the second half.
45+1 min A very dodgy pass by Leckie goes straight to Messi on the edge of the Australian area. For once Messi’s first touch is too heavy, which allows Rowles to come across and clear the danger.
44 min More enterprising play from Bos. He plays a crisp one-two with O’Neill, surges to the edge of the D and then shoots over. There’s been a lot to like about his performance.
43 min Atkinson breaks promisingly down the right but his cross is behind Duke, the only Socceroo in the penalty area.
42 min It’s ferociously hot in Beijing – around 33 degrees, even though it’s almost 9pm. Because of that and much else besdies, expect plenty of substitutions in the second half.
40 min This has been a decent game – and also a pretty competitive one. There have been a bit of needle, and one or two moments of aggression that you don’t usually see in friendlies.
38 min: Chance for Messi! Di Maria, on the halfway line, plays an elegant golf shot to put Messi through on goal. Messi controls it immaculately on the run with his left foot, then dinks it over Ryan with his right. He gets too much on it, though, and the ball drifts over the bar.
36 min Messi’s dangerous through ball is well read by Ryan, who races from his line to take it off the toes of Mac Allister.
35 min Mac Allister’s neat flick releases Gonzalez, who surges to the edge of the area and then goes over after what looked like a foul from Atkinson. Play continues, and moments later Gonzalez goes down holding his face after a challenge from Atkinson. It was an accidental backhanded slap as they competed for a bouncing ball.
34 min McGree and Bos combine well once again down the left. Bos cuts inside, along the line of the penalty area, but then pokes well wide with his right foot. For a kid playing only his second international game, Bos has been terrific.
33 min Australia have been the better team in the last 10 minutes, and they are starting to get some joy by pressing Australia high up the field.
32 min Now Romero is down after a collision with Leckie. Emi Martinez runs over to have his say, but Leckie didn’t do much wrong.
31 min Otamendi is moving a bit gingerly after a collision at that previous corner. He’s going to try to run it off.