Lionel Messi’s rebounded first-half penalty, upon his return from international suspension, three minutes after Gabriel Jesus’ horrendous effort from 12 yards at the opposite end was enough to see Argentina earn a 1-0 win in Riyadh against Brazil.
The 112th-meeting between the South American rivals flickered into life when Fiorentina centre-back German Pezzella was judged to have tripped the aforementioned Manchester City striker. But in front of 22,541 supporters at King Saud University Stadium, his spot-kick trickled wide little more than a week since his failure at club level at Atalanta in the Champions League.
La Albiceleste quickly broke up the pitch and Barcelona icon Messi was nudged over by Juventus left-back Alex Sandro inside the box. The forward dusted himself off and notched a 70th international strike in 138 caps, via a save from Liverpool’s unfortunate Alisson.
Inter Milan forward Lautaro Martinez and City centre-back Nicolas Otamendi would then spurn glorious close-range opportunities after the break as Brazil – who awarded Real Madrid rising star Rodrygo and Aston Villa forward Wesley debuts from the substitutes’ bench – made it five fixtures without victory.
Here are the player ratings:
Alisson 7: Can count himself unlucky not to deny Messi, but lucky further second-half chances didn’t go in. Made seven stop in total.
Danilo 7: Audacious first-half shot, from a ridiculous angle, nearly forced a wonder goal.
Eder Militao 5: Lack of regular action at Madrid showed.
Thiago Silva 6: Not the most mobile centre-back any more, yet retains leadership ability. Struggled when pulled wide by Messi and Co.
Alex Sandro 5: Challenge started outside the box, but contact did continue with Messi.
Arthur 5: Barca midfielder faded out of view after an early, threatening shot.
Casemiro 5: Madrid battler’s lack of urgency transmitted throughout team.
Lucas Paqueta 6: AC Milan forward’s sharp feet and bursts of acceleration were a feature of first-half. Couldn’t keep it up.
Gabriel Jesus 5: Another disastrous penalty this month. Didn’t convince.
Roberto Firmino 5: Uneventful outing for the Liverpool superstar. Linked up well, but few opportunities.
Willian 6: Dangerous first-half cross almost led to a Paqueta goal. Hooked for Rodrygo.
Philippe Coutinho 6: Bayern Munich loanee was given all of the forgettable second half to impress.
Fabinho 6: Tried to keep things ticking over.
Renan Lodi 6: Second cap for Atletico Madrid left-back.
Richarlison 6: Everton forward asked for a penalty when his shirt was tugged. Didn’t get it.
Rodrygo 6: Debutant couldn’t keep up red-hot Los Blancos scoring form.
Wesley N/A: Last few minutes for Villa attacker.
Esteban Andrada 7: Remained alert in first half, though went wrong way for missed spot-kick. Little to do after the break.
Juan Foyth 5: Unforgivable loss of possession in the first half from Tottenham defender forced Pezzella into collision with Jesus.
German Pezzella 6: Could do little about the penalty, scrambling to correct Foyth error.
Nicolas Otamendi 6: Will regret not making better connection with looped cross towards the death.
Nicolas Tagliafico 5: Little nudge on Jesus inside the box from Ajax left-back went ignored.
Lucas Ocampos 5: Couldn’t replicate exciting form with Sevilla in international colours, this time.
Leandro Paredes 7: Tried to get passing going in difficult circumstance. Stung Alisson’s fingertips from distance.
Giovani Lo Celso 6: Smashed into by Danilo before half-hour mark. Little else of note occurred.
Rodrigo De Paul 5: Udinese winger did not do a great deal.
Lionel Messi 7: The man everyone came to see did not disappoint against side whom he incurred three-month international ban for stating summer’s Copa America was “fixed for Brazil”. Alert to follow up penalty, also threatened with second-half free-kick.
Lautaro Martinez 6: On another day, could have been celebrating several goals. Is such a live-wire.
Marcos Acuna 6: Errant left-footed drive went well wide.
Nicolas Gonzalez 5: Stuttgart forward failed to improve on Ocampos showing.
Guido Rodriguez N/A: Deflected shot floored a Brazil defender.
Lucas Alario N/A: Bayer Leverkusen centre forward was thrown on in the 88th minute, to wind clock down.
Nicolas Dominguez N/A: A second cap for Velez Sarsfield midfielder came in the 90th minute.
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