Argentina defeats Nigeria 2-1 thanks to a late strike by Marcos Rojo who took Argentina to the round of 16 after a dramatic match today amidst rising tensions on both sides of the pitch, as each team fights for a spot in this World Cup.
Argentina opens the score after Lionel Messi received a long pass with excellent control to put it in the back of the net giving his team the lead.
Argentina played today with different energy as they dominate ball possession and push forward with good teamwork, building pressure on the Nigerian team.
Messi misses the chance to extend the lead for Argentina after a free-kick on the edge of the box, with a curling ball to the opposite side of the Nigerian wall but off the post.
The Argentinian star player has had a hit or miss performance in his last nine international appearances for Argentina, either recording a hat-trick or not scoring at all.
The first half goes to the Argentinian side controlling the tempo of play with pleasing performance, unlike their previous games at Russia 2018.
Early in the second half Nigeria comes up with the equaliser in the 51st minute after Victor Moses successfully rolls the ball home while keeping a cool appearance.
The penalty came from the referee’s decision after Javier Mascherano was booked with a yellow card for hauling down Balogun inside the box.
With the 1-1 draw, Nigeria was back in the game as they were able to create more chances but still under pressure from the Argentinian side.
A VAR penalty review denies the handball by the Argentinian defender in the 77th minute to reject Nigeria’s chance to guarantee their qualifying status.
With 10 minutes to go, the Argentinian side looked desperate to score a goal backed by an overwhelming noise coming from the fans in the stands with 64,468 official attendance, a full house at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.
Marcos Rojo comes to the rescue in the 86th minute to give Argentina the lead again and secure the three points his team needed to advance to the round of 16.
The defender Rojo delivered the winning goal as he did four years ago against Nigeria, with a side-footed volley delivered from a right side cross in, as he put it into the net followed by an explosion of noise inside the stadium.
The late goal advances Argentina to the next round after placing second in Group D, behind Croatia who also won their last match against Iceland to end the group stage run with nine points. Group C’s runners-up Denmark will face Croatia, while Argentina will go ahead to meet France in the next stage of Russia 2018.
Source: Kuwait News Agency