Olympics: Argentina beats Australia 1-0

Ezequiel Lavezzi ended Australia's stubborn resistance and led Argentina to a 1-0 victory on Sunday to put his team into the quarterfinals.

updated: August 14, 2008 16:57 IST
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Ezequiel Lavezzi ended Australia's stubborn resistance and led Argentina to a 1-0 victory on Sunday to put his team into the quarterfinals of the Olympic football competition.

After Lionel Messi had missed three chances, Lavezzi ended a well-worked move to score a 78th-minute goal to give Argentina six points from two games. The Argentines also beat Ivory Coast 2-1.

"We have three goals from two games, that might not sound enough but you can score 10 goals but still not qualify for the next round," said Argentina coach Sergio Batista. "So I'm happy with three goals and qualifying for the next round."

"I am very confident in my team. We knew our goal and we are marching towards our goal. We still need a few improvements to keep mistakes to a minimum."

The Aussies have one point after a 1-1 draw with Serbia.

"I'm extremely proud of the performance of my team and frustrated that we lost," Australian coach Graham Arnold said. "When you have four or five gilt edged chances against that type of opposition you need to score them and unfortunately that didn't happen."

Arnold said it was difficult to see anyone taking the title from the defending champion.

"It's going to take some team to stop them. Their movement off the ball is unbelievable, their technique is incredible and that's why I'm so proud of my boys. We made it hard to play their one-twos around the box. I thought we did a very good job on Messi today."

Another full house of 56,000 at the Shanghai Olympic Stadium again gave Messi a big reception but he had, for him, an off day. As well as shooting high and wide, his famous control sometimes let him down.

Heavy rain and a thunderstorm just before kickoff had made the field very wet, but that didn't stop Argentina's stars from trying to thread their intricate passing game together. The Australians tried to combat that with a wall of midfielders in front of the defense and the tactic worked for long periods of the game.

Messi wasted an early chance when he fired over the bar in the seventh minute. And Javier Mascherano almost gave Argentina a 12th minute lead with a rising 25-meter shot which appeared headed for the top corner, until Socceroos goalkeeper Adam Federici launched himself to the left to push the ball round the post for a top-quality save.

Federici also smothered an angled shot from Messi after the FC Barcelona star had wriggled into the area. But the goalkeeper was guilty of a blunder when Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai penalized him for holding onto the ball for more than six seconds and, from the free kick just inside the area, Juan Ramon Riquelme shaved the post.

Despite their containing game, the Australians almost snatched the lead midway through the first half when Billy Celeski weaved past three defenders only for a fourth to block his close range shot.

Messi missed two chances after the halftime break, shooting wide and then high and a better chance fell to Australian substitute Nikita Rijkavytsya, who should have punished some poor defending within seconds of entering the game but shot wide with only goalkeeper Oscar Ustari to beat.

The Australians appeared to have shackled the talented Argentina forwards but the South Americans produced a top quality winner.

Messi's short pass found Riquelme who fed Angel Di Maria out on the left and his cross was side-footed home first time from 10 meters by Lavezzi.