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SPORTS | 23-03-2019 11:30

Not in the script: Venezuela spoils Messi’s return to the Albiceleste

The Albiceleste crashed to a surprise 3-1 defeat to Venezuela last night, as the crisis-stricken country’s national team ruined Lionel Messi’s return.

All eyes were on the Barcelona superstar, who played his first shirt in the light-blue-and-white stripes since Argentina’s 4-3 defeat to France in the Russia 2018 World Cup.

However, it was veteran Venezuela striker Salomón Rondón who opened the scoring.

It took just six minutes for the Newcastle United loanee to thrash a shot past Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani.

Tondela midfielder Jhon Murillo made it 2-0 in the 44th minute with a fizzling strike from outside the box, indicating A rgentina really were in trouble.

Despite huffing and puffing, it took until the 58th minute for Inter Milan and ex-Racing Club striker Lautaro Martínez to pull one back for the Albiceleste. But as Argentina grew back into the game, creating chance, their comeback hopes were then snuffed out by Josef Martínez, who put Venezuela 3-1 up from the penalty spot after a foul by Argentina youngster Juan Foyth.

The result does little to boost Argentina’s hopes ahead of the upcoming Copa América in Brazil in a few months time.

The Albiceleste, fielding an inexperienced team, often struggled to play cohesively and found themselves troubled time a n d t i m e a g a i n b y Venezuela’s direct play, especially on the counter-attack.

The result will send coach L ionel Sca loni back to t he d r aw i ng board, as he looks ahead to Argentina’s next match against Morocco in Tangier on Tuesday at 4pm.

It is unclear if Messi will play in that match, given the number of matches he has already played for Barcelona this year.

Far from positive omens for the national side, t h e n . A l t h o u g h f o r Venezuela’s own troubled side, it was a perfect night.

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