RIYADH: Lionel Messi drew a rare blank on Wednesday as Saudi Arabia held Argentina to a 0-0 draw in a friendly match.
Messi and Sergio Aguero struggled for much of the night to showcase their talents, with neither posing much of a threat to the Saudi goal. The Argentine side did have several chances just before halftime but Pablo Zabaleta’s shot was saved and Messi then failed to connect with Eduardo Salvio in the area. Saudi Arabia had the best chances of the second half, with Yasser Al Qahtani twice denied by keeper Sergio Romero.
"We didn't play a good match, from the beginning we didn't do the things we needed to do," Messi said. "We basically gave away the first half, and in the second we played a little bit better, but not much."
At the other end, Sergio Aguero, who plays for Manchester City, might have earned a penalty but was judged to have been fouled just outside the area.
Just after the hour mark, Aguero slipped down the right and whipped in a cross which Messi just failed to connect with.
Then Yasir Al Shahrani robbed Messi as he prepared to shoot from just inside the box.
The run-up to the match was dominated by the chaotic arrival of Messi to Riyadh Monday, with security guards unable to control the crowds at the airport and one soldier inadvertently pointing his gun toward the Argentine star.
The Argentinians will now turn their focus back to the business of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil — the group leaders’ next qualifier is against Venezuela on March 22 before they head up to the high altitude of La Paz to face makeweights Bolivia four days later.
— additional input from agencies