The Argentine captain scored his 789th goal in his 1,000th game
Lionel Messi was on target in his 1,000th match as Argentina beat Australia 2-1 to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Qatar.
In a packed Al-Rayyan Stadium that felt like a home venue for Messi’s country due to fervent blue and white support, the Paris Saint-Germain forward scored the opening goal on 35 minutes after a quiet opening half hour.
Messi’s 789th career goal was scored in typical fashion, with the 35-year-old cutting in from the right wing and making his way into the box where he took a touch after receiving the ball back from Nicolas Otamendi and drilled home with his left foot.
Approaching the hour mark in the second half, Julian Alvarez pounced on a goalkeeping blunder and doubled Argentina’s lead when Mathew Ryan tried dribbling a backpass past Rodrigo De Paul and the ball spilled out to him.
With less than a quarter of an hour to spare, Craig Goodwin gave the overperforming Socceroos hope by halving the deficit with a shot that received a huge deflection and was credited as an Enzo Fernandez own goal.
Shortly after, Aziz Behich went on an amazing slalom run Messi would have been proud of. Dribbling past three or four men with ease, the Australian defender was finally halted by Lisandro Martinez with a perfectly timed slide tackle.
Replacing goalscorer Alvarez, Lautaro Martinez fluffed a pair of chances to put the tie beyond doubt.
In the seventh minute of stoppage time, Garang Kuol came close to equalizing and was denied by a quick-thinking Emiliano Martinez, who blocked his shot with a well-placed left arm in the box.
It proved to be the last move of the match, with the full-time whistle sending Australia home.
Argentina celebrated by joining in terrace chants with their masses of fans, and have now set up a quarterfinal date with the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Friday.