Messi scores a late penalty as Argentina and Uruguay draw


TEL AVIV — Lionel Messi scored a late penalty as Argentina drew 2-2 with Uruguay in a friendly held in Israel Monday, with the Jewish state considering the match a victory.

The game pitted Messi against his Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez, and it looked as though the Uruguayan had gotten the better of him as he scored one goal and set up another to give his team a 2-1 lead going into injury time.

But a ball into the box was handled by a Uruguayan defender, and Messi calmly slotted the resulting penalty home to ensure an engaging friendly ended all square.

The 32-year-old had earlier teed up Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero to make it 1-1, after Edinson Cavani had opened the scoring.

Suarez scored a free-kick from outside the box to give his side the lead before Messi's late intervention.

The game had been dubbed by organizers as an important moment for Israel, following the cancellation of another Argentina match a year earlier after pressure from pro-Palestinian campaigners.

Organizers dubbed it as a game about peace, but boycott campaigners called for it to be canceled over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

On the pitch at times it felt like the Messi show, with the crowd chanting his name and every Messi run greeted by vociferous cheering.

While not at his electric best, he showed moments of quality – slaloming past defenders and forcing Uruguay goalkeeper Martin Campana into a number of smart saves.

Messi has now scored in both games since a three-month international suspension for comments he made after Argentina were eliminated from the Copa America in July.

He accused CONMEBOL, the governing body of South American football, of corruption and fixing the tournament for hosts and eventual winners Brazil.

He returned to the national team on Friday, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Brazil. — AFP