EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Lionel Messi and Argentina gave nearly 82,000 fans at MetLife Stadium a real treat on Saturday, and the Albiceleste equally enjoyed their performance.
Led by a hat trick from Messi, Argentina fought back to defeat archrivals Brazil 4-3 in a friendly that was worth the price of admission due to the offensive brilliance demonstrated on both sides.
Messi and Brazilian starlet Neymar each had their moments of magic, but ultimately the Argentines were the ones to depart with smiles on their faces. And not just because of the result.
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“It’s wonderful to play [in the United States],” midfielder Javier Mascherano told reporters after the game. “It is always an enjoyable experience.”
A record crowd of 81,994 watched the proceedings on Saturday, and it was dazzled by the flair and skill that typically comes with the South American clásico. The match did get ugly at the end, with an altercation resulting in Brazilian fullback Marcelo and Argentina midfielder Ezequiel Lavezzi getting sent off.
But for Argentina, getting that kind of support was enjoyable nonetheless.
“The experience is amazing,” said midfielder Fernando Gago. “We’ve played here many times, but the clásicos against Brazil are different all around the world.”
While Argentina may have been pleased with how many fans came out to cheer them on, the victory against the five-time World Cup winners was just the icing on the cake for their trip to America.
“I enjoyed it because of what it means and to end the game with that kind of goal,” said Messi, who scored a wonderful winner in the 84th minute. “Obviously, I’m very happy to end things on a positive note.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.