Belfast Telegraph

Ronaldo v Messi battle is a damp squib

By Phil Medlicott

Lionel Messi outshone his Ballon d'Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo, but the latter's team took the spoils as a late header from substitute Raphael Guerreiro snatched a 1-0 win for Portugal over Argentina in a disappointing friendly at Old Trafford.

The fixture had been billed pre-match as an unmissable showdown between Messi and Ronaldo - a spectacle that turned out only to last until half-time, when both players were substituted in somewhat anti-climactic circumstances.

It was the Argentinian who had made the bigger impression before his withdrawal, hitting a post and causing frequent problems, while ex-Manchester United man Ronaldo struggled to get into the game on his return to his old ground, with his only real chance of note being struck over.

Portugal then stole a victory they barely deserved in the dying seconds when defender Guerreiro headed home fellow substitute Ricardo Quaresma's cross.

Given the Ronaldo-Messi factor, as well as the promise of a host of Premier League players past and present - many from the Manchester clubs - being on display, there had been considerable surprise that the ticket sales figures in the days leading up to the game had not been higher.

In the end, just over 40,000 spectators were in attendance for a contest that began with a handshake between Messi and Ronaldo, the two captains, which they may hope served as an indicator there is no animosity between them.

Messi was then swiftly to the fore, proving a thorn in Portugal's side as he drifted around from his starting position out on the right.

In the fifth minute he teed up Angel di Maria, who drilled a shot wide from the edge of the box.

Six minutes later, Messi came close to scoring himself, playing a neat one-two before seeing his strike come off the base of the near post.

The first really notable moment involving a Portugal player came when Nani, the man on loan from United at Sporting Lisbon, brought down current Red Devil Di Maria. Treatment was required, but Di Maria was able to continue.

Ronaldo was yet to make much of an impression, but a chance came his way around the half-hour mark when he collected a cross in the box and turned Lucas Biglia inside out before firing over the bar.

Messi continued to look a threat towards the end of the half before he and Ronaldo's exited and didn't return.

Argentina then continued to have the upper hand after the break, with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Di Maria and substitute Nicolas Gaitan trying their luck unsuccessfully.

Ex-United and City frontman Carlos Tevez came on, along with Tottenham's Erik Lamela, but Argentina were still unable to make a breakthrough and it came back to haunt them at the death as Portugal delivered their sucker-punch.

Belfast Telegraph

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