Messi injured on return to international duty

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(Lautaro Martinez 59) (Salomon Rondon 6, Jhon Murillo 44, Josef Martinez 75-pen)

Argentina’s Lionel Messi returned to international duty for the first time since the World Cup on Saturday morning (March 23, Singapore time) but it was a disappointing night for the forward as his side lost 3-1 to Venezuela and he was ruled out of their next match with groin problem.

Messi, 31, showed flashes of brilliance but it was not his night as Venezuela put three past their more illustrious rivals for the first time with goals from Salomon Rondon, Jhon Murillo and Josef Martinez. Lautaro Martinez got Argentina’s consolation.

The Barcelona superstar finished the match but felt some pain in his groin and will sit out Tuesday’s friendly against Morocco in Tangier, the Argentine Football Association said after the game.

The injury, described as a flare-up of an existing problem, was not thought to be serious. Midfielder Gonzalo Martinez will also miss the Morocco match with a thigh strain.

Messi took a sabbatical after his country’s early departure from last year’s World Cup in Russia but he returned with a clean-shaven new look to captain the side in the all-South American affair at Atletico Madrid’s Metropolitano stadium.

Venezuela had beaten Argentina only once in 23 previous encounters, but they got the perfect start after five minutes when Rondon brought down a long pass inside the box and crashed a shot past goalkeeper Franco Armani.

Rondon should have made it two with a header in the 40th, but the second goal was only moments away as Murillo took advantage of a quick free-kick to scamper to the edge of the box and curl a lovely right-foot shot into the far corner of the net.

Lautaro Martinez finished off a superb counter-attack to pull Argentina back into the game after 59 minutes but their hopes were short-lived and Venezuela’s Josef Martinez made it 3-1 from the penalty spot with a quarter of an hour remaining.

“In the first half, we created chances but they scored twice when we made mistakes,” said Lautaro Martinez.

“In the second half, we did well and moved the ball about but they got that penalty. We need to keep improving.” – REUTERS

Lionel messiARGENTINAMoroccoVenezuela