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Martino hails "absolutely phenomenal" Leo

Martino lavishes “absolutely phenomenal” Messi with praise after 2-1 win vs Chile

March 25, 2016 By Ali M.
Thursday’s game saw Argentina’s influential captain return to aid La Albiceleste's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Thursday saw the return of Argentina’s influential captain Lionel Messi to the national side, as he helped his nation overcome Chile in a 2-1 comeback win in Santiago.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner missed La Albiceleste’s 1st four qualifiers due to a knee injury which kept him on the sidelines for more than 7 weeks. 

In the 28-year-old Barca attacker’s absence, the 2014 World Cup runners-up struggled, suffering a surprise opening day 2-0 defeat to Ecuador followed by back-to-back draws with Paraguay and Brazil.

The victory of La Roja was Argentina’s second win in as many games, beating Colombia 1-0 back in November, as Gerardo Martino’s boys got revenge over the side that handed them heartbreak in the 2015 Copa America final.

Speaking after the game, the national team boss lavished La Pulga with praise, hailing his “absolutely phenomenal” performance; although, he did admit that Leo faded after the break.

"Messi was absolutely phenomenal in the first half," Martino said, as per Goal.

Lionel Messi, Chile, Argentina, World Cup Qualifying

"He was less influential after the break because he did not see as much of the ball as in the first half.

"We sat a bit deeper after the break in order to contain Chile. They are one of the best teams in the world. We really needed a win here.

"Either way, regardless of whether it was the defeat versus Ecuador or the win over Colombia, the absence of the best player in the world hurt us.

"We always play better when Messi is there."

Argentina were shocked after only 10 minutes of play, conceding an early opener through Chile’s Felipe Gutierrez.

However, a wonderful golazo from PSG star Angel Di Maria in the 19th minute, followed Gabriel Mercado’s winner (assisted by Messi) 5 minutes later, sealed a crucial win for the away side.

Next up for Lionel Messi and Co. is a home encounter with Bolivia on March 29.

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