Messi gets double as Argentina beat Jamaica 3-0
Argentina forward Sergio Agüero (9) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the first half of the international friendly soccer game between Argentina and Jamaica on September 27, 2022 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Lionel Messi came off the bench to score a late double as Jamaica were beaten 0-3 by Argentina in their friendly international, at the red Bull Arena in New Jersey on Tuesday.

It was Argentina’s final friendly international before November’s World Cup finals in Qatar and Messi provided an exciting end after what was mostly a pedestrian game, the start of the Heimir Hallgrimsson era as the Reggae Boyz coach.

Julian Alvarez had given Argentina the lead after 13 minutes but they had to wait until late in the game before Messi, who was a second half substitute, added two late strikes much to the delight of the crowd which was predominantly Argentine fans.

After a timid first half where the Jamaicans were pinned back in their own defensive areas for long periods, the Reggae Boyz showed more enterprise in the second half but had nothing to show for it.

Amarii Bell led a swift counter attack for the Jamaicans in the 68th minute after Messi uncharacteristically lost the ball, but Bell’s pass to Michail Antonio was easily handled by the Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Alvares finished off a brilliant move by Lautaro Martínez as he danced through the defense and picked out Alvares who fired home from point blank range, beating Jamaican goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The expected onslaught did not materialise however, and the Jamaicans held on just one goal down at half time.

Messi’s introduction in the second half brought some well needed energy to the game, as well as three pitch invaders and the fans were rewarded handsomely with two goals in three minutes both solo efforts.

He darted past the stationary defenders in the 86th minute to beat Blake to his left and two minutes later he was tripped up just on the edge of the 18-yard box by Adrian Mariappa before curling the resulting free kick with his left boot past Blake.

– Paul A Reid

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