Superb goal seals Argentina's victory

A superb goal eight minutes into extra time by Maxi Rodriguez sealed Argentina’s 2-1 win over Mexico in Leipzig, Germany, on Saturday and a mouthwatering clash with Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals next Friday.

Regulation time had finished 1-1 after two goals in an action-packed first quarter of the game, but it was a moment’s brilliance from Rodriguez that ensured Mexico would not make their third-ever World Cup quarterfinal.

The Atletico Madrid midfielder chested down an innocuous Juan Sorin pass on the edge of the area, swivelled and fired a looping left-footed volley into the far top corner beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Osvaldo Sanchez.

“That was incredible,” said Rodriguez. “It was a really tough game, with Mexico making it very difficult for us, but we came through in the end. Now we are confident we can go further and beat anyone.”

To do so, they will now have to knock out the hosts.

The early pressure of an enthralling match, however, had been all Mexican as the Argentinian midfield struggled with the pace of the game and it paid off in the sixth minute.

Captain Rafael Marquez lost Gabriel Heinze to come rushing in to the far post unopposed to drive home a Pavel Pardo free kick that had been headed superbly on by Mario Mendez from the near post.

Argentina responded immediately, with pressure from Hernan Crespo forcing Jared Borgetti, who was returning after missing the past two games through injury, to head Juan Riquelme’s swirling corner into his own net in the 10th minute.

Lacking the incisive passing and running of Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, both benched by coach Jose Pekerman despite their outstanding display in the goalless draw against The Netherlands, Argentina looked one-dimensional against the more dynamic Mexican side.

Borgetti, who scored 14 goals in Mexico’s qualifying run, was a constant threat to Argentina, whose strikers were continually thwarted by the stout defending of the outstanding Marquez, Carlos Salcido, Ricardio Osario and Andres Guardado.

Last-ditch defence by West Ham defender Lionel Scaloni deflected Borgetti’s header in the opening minutes, Heinze was forced into a sliding block on a vicious shot after 14 minutes, and goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri then tipped a blistering 25-yard shot over the bar.

Marquez was on hand in the 18th minute of a gripping game to parry a shot by Crespo after a slicing through ball from Esteban Cambiasso.

Crespo was almost on the score sheet five minutes later, with the Chelsea striker’s lob off a delicate Cambiasso chip beating goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez but also the far post.

The first half ended in controversy when Heinze, who put in—for him—a rare sloppy performance in the first half, miscontrolled a simple pass from Abbondanzieri and gifted the ball to Francisco Fonseca before hacking down the striker.

Swiss referee Massimo Busacca doled out a yellow card for the Manchester United defender, but it could easily been red.

Marquez alluded to that afterwards in saying that “various refereeing decisions went against us—but in the end the team that scores more goals wins.
We gave our all and it’s sad.”

Fonseca had a clear chance in the 54th minute, failing to control a ball with just the Argentine keeper in front of him.

Straight up the other end, Sanchez beat away a shot from Rodriguez, largely outmuscled until then.

And Sanchez made the save of the match a minute later, showing great reflexes to parry a well-driven Javier Saviola shot around the post.

With replacement Zinha running the show for Mexico in midfield, Fonseca stabbed the ball wide after meeting Gonzalo Pineda’s deft cross with four minutes of regulation time to play.

Zinha went close to equalising in the 107th minute, but his effort was fired wide and the two-time World Cup winners were content to run the clock down against their flagging opponents.—Sapa-AFP

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