by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 21st 2013)
The Late Show
Lionel Messiʼs 91st minute goal denied Carlos Queirozʼ Iran team a famous draw few would dispute their performance deserved. Alireza Haghighi had kept Argentina at bay when required. His defence had protected him well, confining the Barçelona star, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín and the enterprising left-back Marcos Rojo to speculative efforts.
Ezekiel Garay should have settled Argentine nerves, but headed Messiʼs free-kick just over with less than ten minutes of the first half remaining. It was the best chance Messi and co had created in the first half. But it was hardly one way traffic either. Just before half time Fulhamʼs Askhan Dejagahʼs corner should have resulted in Iran taking a shock lead, but Jalal Hosseini headed over the bar.
Iran played on the counter attack, frustrating Argentina and should perhaps have had the lead long before Messi decided matters. After 53 minutes Javad Nekounam dribbled through centre and passed to Dejagah. Reza Ghoochannejhadʼs header was saved by Sergio Romero. Two minutes later Serbian referee Milorad Mažić made another awful mistake. Manchester Cityʼs Pablo Zabaleta Girod brought down the Fulham man, but Mažić waved play on.
Messi and Argentina had been disappointing. With just under an hour played Messi came to life. His team-mates had failed to convert the half-chances he had created, so he tried a solo route. A trade-mark run into the danger area created the opportunity to shoot just wide of Haghighiʼs right-hand post.
Midway through the second half Pejman Montazeriʼs cross was met powerfully by Dejagah, but Romero was once again equal to the header. With three minutes injury time left a moment of individual skill by Messi decided the outcome of the match. It was hard on Iran and will raise further questions about the quality of refereeing in this tournament. The introduction of video technology canʼt come quick enough.