Mercado leads Argentina to win over Brazil, Jesus suffers injury
International friendly, Melbourne Cricket Ground - Brazil 0 Argentina 1 (Mercado 45)
Argentina kept up their impressive recent record against bitter rivals Brazil, a 1-0 victory at a near capacity MCG giving Jorge Sampaoli his first victory as new manager.
Gabriel Mercado tapped home on the brink of half time after Nicolas Otamendi’s header bounced into his path off the post to give Argentina a deserved half-time advantage.
Brazil were much improved after the break and only Gabriel Jesus will know how he failed to equalise, hitting the post instead of the back of an empty net after rounding Sergio Romero, Willian also clattering the woodwork on the follow up.
Many of the 95,569 packed into Melbourne’s famous old cricket ground had undoubtedly turned up with the hope of watching the mercurial Lionel Messi put on a show but the little magician was, for the most part, kept quiet by disciplined Argentine defending.
And the match ended in worrying fashion for Manchester City fans, Jesus stretchered off in the closing moments. Victory for Argentina means they have lost only one of their past five meetings against their great rivals dating back to 2012.
Brazils Gabriel Jesus is carried off the field during the friendly game of football between Brazil and ArgentinaGetty Images
A friendly in name alone. Matches are never ever friendly affairs and this niggly affair was littered with spiteful tackles. Aussie referee Chris Beath did well to keep the cards to a minimum.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Philippe Coutinho (Brazil): The Liverpool maestro was the standout man in yellow and should have put his side ahead but for a good Romero save. Outshone Messi on the night.
Argentina: Romero 7, Otamendi 7, Maidana 7, Mercado 7, Jose Luis Gomez 6, Biglia 6, Banega 6, Messi 6, Dybala 6, Di Maria 7, Higuain 6. Subs: Correa 7, Tagliafico 7, Rodriguez 6, Mammana 6, Lanzini 6.
Lionel Messi of Argentina is challenged by Gil SIlva of BrazilGetty Images
7’ – POST! Coutinho finds space on the edge of the box. He opens up space for himself but doesn’t pull the trigger. Argentina break and Di Maria smashes the ball against the woodwork from an acute angle!
22’ – COUTINHO CHANCE! Willian sprints clear down the left and squares to Coutinho. He could shoot but tries to beat the keeper and it doesn’t pay off, Romero and Otamendi doing well.
45’ – GOAL! Brazil 0-1 Argentina: The corner is played short. Di Maria’s cross is headed against the post from Otamendi and Mercado is there to tap home into an empty net.
60’ – COUTINHO CLOSE! A lovely run from Coutinho. He shifts it onto his right foot and his shot is blocked by his own man, Paulinho, in an offside position!
61’ – ROMERO SAVE: Brazil suddenly on top as Romero called into action to claw away Jesus’ goalbound shot. Good stop.
63’ – AMAZING MISS! How did Brazil not score there? Jesus ghosts past Romero and clatters his shot against the post with the goal at his mercy. It rebounds to Willian, who also sees his shot cannon back of the woodwork. My word!
Jorge Sampaoli wins his first match in charge of Argentina after a first half Gabriel Mercado goal.