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Messi scores in historic game as Argentina reach round of 16

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Lionel Messi scored his first goal in a World Cup knockout tie in his 1,000th career appearance as two-time champions Argentina beat a late fight from Australia to win 2-1 Saturday and reached the quarter-finals.

Lionel Messi scored his first goal in a World Cup knockout tie in his 1,000th career appearance as two-time champions Argentina beat a late fight from Australia to win 2-1 Saturday and reach the quarter-finals.

Messi gave Argentina the lead after 35 minutes with a freshly taken strike from the corner for his 94th international goal to overtake great Diego Maradona’s tally of eight World Cup goals for the South Americans.

Julian Alvarez added a second near the hour mark after a howl from goalkeeper Mat Ryan put the game past Australia and set up a mouth-watering last-eight clash with the Netherlands, who beat the United States 3-1 earlier on Saturday.

Argentina were slow to enter a game that started off in disjointed fashion, with Alejandro Gomez, Enzo Fernandez and Alvarez combining well but unable to break down a resolute defence.

Gomez had an early chance when clear on the left and cut inside, but fired a shot that went very far, while Messi struggled to make his mark in the opening exchanges.

Australia had their best chance from a corner near the half-hour mark when Harry Souttar, more than two meters tall, climbed high to head for a corner but his effort lacked power.

Buoyed by enthusiastic and overwhelmingly Argentinian support who sang and bounced in unison from all four sides of the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Argentina pressed and eventually made the breakthrough, with Messi involved at the start and finish.

He fired a free-kick which was cleared and eventually found Alexis Mac Allister and he passed it to Nicolas Otamendi, who sent it back for Messi to shoot low beyond the reach of a strained Ryan.

Argentina and Messi came back from the interval looking for more and got their second in the 57th minute when Ryan missed a backpass under pressure from Rodrigo De Paul and was stripped by Alvarez, who turned around and shot home.

But Australia refused to back down and followed up with a flurry of attacks and pulled a goal back after 77 minutes when substitute Craig Goodwin’s hard, speculative shot deflected Fernandez and flew into the net.

With nothing to lose and a chance to extend the game, Australia pushed forward and nearly scored again minutes later when Aziz Behich burst into the box and found himself on goal before a brilliant saving tackle from Lisandro Martinez.

Argentina looked dangerous late on as they battled for a third goal, with Lautaro Martinez firing wide.

Messi fended off two neat chances in the final minutes and Australia were painfully close to equalizing when Garang Kuol missed in front of goal with seconds left in stoppage time.

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