Argentina manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino hailed the performance of the returning Lionel Messi as his side came back from a goal down to defeat Chile on Thursday.
Chile took the lead in the 10th minute after midfielder Felipe Gutierrez powered home a header from close range past Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Argentina responded almost immediately through Angel Di Maria’s right-footed curler to level the scores at the Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos.
River Plate defender Gabriel Mercado put Argentina in front after being set up by Lionel Messi five minutes later. Despite late Chilean pressure, La Albiceleste held on to register a crucial 2-1 away win and climb to 4th in the CONMEBOL qualifying table.
Martino praises “phenomenal” Messi
Argentina manager Gerardo Martino heaped praise on Lionel Messi for leading his country to victory in difficult circumstances. “Messi was absolutely phenomenal in the first half,” said Tata Martino (as reported by goal.com). “He was less influential after the break because he did not see as much of the ball as in the first half.
“We sat a bit deeper after the break in order to contain Chile. They are one of the best teams in the world. We really needed a win here.
“Either way, regardless of whether it was the defeat versus Ecuador or the win over Colombia, the absence of the best player in the world hurt us.
“We always play better when Messi is there.”
Martino’s comments come after Messi set the rather dubious record on Thursday night of not registering a shot on target for the first time in his 117-game international career.
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) March 25, 2016
Argentina manager slams PSG over Di Maria
Meanwhile, Martino further went on to slam French champions Paris Saint-Germain for not cooperating with the Argentine Football Association over their treatment of star winger Angel Di Maria. Martino accused the French champions of playing Di Maria in an inconsequential league match on Sunday night ahead of Argentina’s crucial World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia in the coming week.
“I’m angry with PSG who didn’t respond in the same way as us when a player, as was with the case with Di Maria, should be kept in reserve,” said the former Barcelona manager (via espnfc). “We suggested to them that it wasn’t necessary for him to play in Sunday’s game given that the club are already champions.
“In the past when we understood that it was better for Di Maria to stay in Paris, we didn’t pick him. In turn, we would have liked PSG to understand our needs.”