Friendly: Argentina 1-0 Venezuela

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Old 02-Sep-2011
Harpreet Seehra
Friendly: Argentina 1-0 Venezuela

Nicolas Otamendi saved Argentina's blushes as they beat Venezuela 1-0 at the Salt Stadium in Calcutta on Friday night.
The humidity and travel from South America clearly affected both sides, who were sweating profusely even when West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan and other dignitaries like AIFF President Praful Patel met the two teams ahead of the kick-off.
The victory marked Argentina's most narrow victory over South America's traditional whipping boys, Venezuela, as they had never failed to beat them by a margin of two goals before.
It was a frustrating first-half for Argentina, as Venezuelan custodian Rafael kept his side in the game, denying Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain time and time again.
The fans in the Salt Stadium were clearly there to see Lionel Messi though, and grew frustrated as La Albiceleste's captain kept being denied time and space to play as freely as he does for Barcelona by a wary Venezuela defence.
The boys in white and blue were not to be denied, though, as they came out on the pitch in the second half determined to break the deadlock.
Roberto Gonzales came close in the 60th minute, but Argentina needed to be careful as the Venezuelan wingers aimed for quick counter attacks, looking ominious threatening.
The groans of the crowd grew as even Messi himself grew frustrated, as he came close with a swerving free-kick in the 62nd minute that had all standing in awe, but the ball fizzed narrowly past the right corner.
Argentina were not to be denied though, and their play finally broke the Venezuelan defence as Messi floated in a cross that was gleefully headed into the top left corner by Otamendi to settle the contest.
The first-ever FIFA international friendly then petered out as both sides made a rash of substitutions to close out the game.
Otamendi was rewarded with the Man of the Match trophy to celebrate his match-winning goal.

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