Posts Tagged ‘Higuain’

World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi strike saves Argentina’s blushes

Lionel Messi celebrates his injury time winning goal. (Photograph courtesy of Getty Images.)

Lionel Messi celebrates his injury time winning goal. (Photograph courtesy of Getty Images.)

Written by Chris Winterburn

Argentina survived a scare this evening with Lionel Messi’s 91st minute winning goal the difference between Alejandro Sabella’s side and Iran in a 1-0 victory for the South American giants.

The Iranians were once again well organised defensively as well as posing an efficient threat on the counter-attack and it wouldn’t have been too farfetched to suggest the underdogs deserved a victory, let alone the draw they so nearly earned.

The similarities between Italy’s performance against Costa Rica yesterday afternoon and Argentina’s against Iran were striking. Argentina had very little tempo when in possession of the ball however still squandered a number of chances in the first-half from set pieces with Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez both heading over the bar from close range.

Iran, as they were against Nigeria in the week, were defensively strong. Javad Nekounam performed well as a holding midfielder, often dropping in at centre-half whilst Alireza Haghighi looked confident when dealing with balls delivered into the penalty area.

Alejandro Sabella after staunch criticism for his use of a 5-3-2 formation at the beginning of the opening fixture against Bosnia and Herzegovina selected Gonzalo Higuain from the beginning however the Napoli forward was almost passenger throughout aside from one chance in the first-half, leaving Messi isolated when withdrawing into a deep midfield position to receive the ball.

Argentina in fairness did have the better of the opening 45 minutes with Iran looking to consolidate a strong defensive display. The aforementioned Higuain chance came just before the half hour with the Napoli forward firing straight into Haghighi’s midriff from close range. Iran’s confidence grew from there with the half closing with Carlos Queiroz’s side going close from a corner through central defender Jalal Hosseini.

The half-time break appeared to have refocused Argentina with Pablo Zabaleta, Marcos Rojo and Sergio Aguero all looking to create a chance in the opening five minutes. From this moment however Iran looked to take control.

Argentina in search of an opening goal left far too many gaps in defence and midfield and should have been punished in the 55th minute when Ashkan Dejagah was denied a penalty. Replays showed a mistimed Zabaleta challenge was in actual fact, a foul. Dejagah had Iran’s next big chance ten minutes later when the Fulham midfielder forced an excellent save out of Sergio Romero following a diving header.

Panic set in to the Argentine team with attacks becoming frenzied and first touches slack. Alejandro Sabella looked to respond by introducing Rodrigo Palacio and Ezequiel Lavezzi but both struggled.

Charlton’s Reza Ghoochannejhad had put in a lot in terms of closing the Argentinean defence down however luck deserted the frontman in the final third with Romero pulling off yet another fantastic stop four minutes from time after another counter attack.

Whilst not the most aesthetically pleasing of playing styles it was difficult not to admire the focus and determination of an Iranian side plagued by off the pitch troubles prior to the tournament. A side, who were reportedly told not to swap shirts at the end of matches due to a financial inability to replace them, looked set to secure their second point of the tournament until a largely quiet Lionel Messi weaved his wand of a left foot.

With just three minutes of added time remaining Messi produced the trademark cut inside onto his strong left foot from the right hand side of the penalty area, taking two Iranians out of the game before curling a shot into the top corner in just the manner he has done so many times before.

Initially the crowd in Belo Horizonte, made up mostly by Argentineans, erupted in a wave of audible delight however the full-time whistle was accompanied by a small amount of discontent from supporters who felt Iran deserved better.

The victory spares Argentina’s blushed on an evening when they really didn’t deserve one point, let alone all three however the passage to the knockout stage has been forged by Lionel Messi who looks to be in the goalscoring form to carry his team to the latter stages.

Domino’s Pizza are offering football fans a chance to change goals into prizes this summer courtesy of the brand new, free to download ‘Domigoals’ app.  To stand a chance of receiving great prizes such as:

·        1 goal = £5 off a £15 spend
·        2 goals (brace) = £10 off £20 spend
·        3 goals (hat-trick) = £20 off £30 spend
·        Consolation prize = 25% off £20

Then all you need to do is be ready to tap the app every time a goal is scored during a match and, if you’re one of the first 1000 off the mark each time, you’ll get one of these aforementioned prizes.

Try the app out for yourself, you can download on Android or iOS here:


How the game was won – Napoli vs Arsenal

December 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Napoli 2 – 0 Arsenal

Both Napoli and Arsenal put a 4-2-3-1 formation to use this evening in a Champions League group which went right down to the wire much to the eventual dismay of Napoli. This choice of formation made for a match which in the first half appeared an end-to-end contest courtesy of the gaps a two man midfield cannot legislate for which we saw in even greater evidence during last season’s Champions League final between Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Olivier Giroud missed Arsenal's best chance of the night which may prove to be a bigger miss in the latter stages of the tournament.

Olivier Giroud missed Arsenal’s best chance of the night which may prove to be a bigger miss in the latter stages of the tournament.

Arsenal’s first half ball retention was impressive with Mathieu Flamini’s mobility being key in Arsenal being able to keep possession away from Napoli for reasonably long periods, furthermore Flamini was able to get across and cover for Mikel Arteta who did not enjoy the best of nights prior to being sent off 10 minutes from time.

Napoli’s play throughout the game was reminiscent of the English sides which surprised the rest of Europe in the late nineties with their rip-roaringly energetic attitude to both sides of the game, Napoli pressed in numbers at pace across the whole of the pitch and they went forward in attack with up to six players at one time due to Armero and Maggio’s wing-back role. Napoli’s attacking play however was lacking in the final third and the craft of Lorenzo Insigne was missed significantly until his second half introduction.

Arsenal could have made the match a very different one near the climax of the first half when Olivier Giroud had an opportunity to have a shot on goal only for the Frenchman to fire straight into the hands of Rafael. These are the golden half chances which you have to make a better use of when you go away from home later on in the Champions League, if you are to stand a chance of winning the competition.

The game changed for Napoli early in the second half when Rafael Benitez introduced Insigne and the young Italian turned the match on its head. The Naples born attacking midfielder just added the final element of craft to the many profligate Napoli attacks which had been lacking a finishing touch up until that point. Insigne’s direct style of play coupled with the Italians rejuvenated pressing game caused the visitors problems and Arsenal struggled to hold onto the ball as they had throughout the opening forty five minutes, and this gave Napoli the impetus to go forward and open the scoring twenty minutes from time.

Arteta’s clumsy red card whilst harsh was indicative of his evening and it should have given Napoli a base to try and score the two further goals they needed to ensure progression at the expense of Arsenal however no such wave of attack came and it was such that a late Borussia Dortmund goal in France put the Italians out of the competition with just minutes left. Jose Callejon’s late chip over Wojciech Szczesny in injury time was too little too late but once again highlighted the talents of Insigne and how he turned the match in Napoli’s favour.

Insigne’s introduction panicked what had been an assured Arsenal side up to that point and Arsene Wenger’s men never really recovered and the importance of Olivier Giroud’s chance may have been highlighted further in a more important fixture. Had Napoli introduced Insigne earlier or at least pushed harder for a goal in the first half and not missed so many chances the Italians had more than a good chance of scoring the three goals required to knock Arsenal out.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4