Kingdom holds Argentina 0-0 in friendly

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Updated 16 November 2012
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Kingdom holds Argentina 0-0 in friendly

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


Mohamed Salah threatens Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or stranglehold

Updated 34 min 53 sec ago
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Mohamed Salah threatens Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or stranglehold

  • Messi and Ronaldo have won the award for the past ten years
  • Salah has emerged as a genuine rival after scoring 43 goals this season

LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah could be the man to finally break the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly at the top of world football after the Liverpool forward burnished his soaring reputation with a mesmerising Champions League performance against Roma.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi have locked down the Ballon d’Or award for a decade, winning five gongs apiece — for the past seven years they have occupied the top two slots.
But Salah is now second favorite behind Ronaldo for this year’s award after scoring his 42nd and 43rd goals of the season in a thrilling 5-2 victory for Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal first leg.
After his first strike against his former club on Tuesday, the man dubbed by fans as the “Egyptian King” stood motionless, hands raised in apology, as bedlam broke out on a night for the ages at Anfield.
Salah’s curling effort arrowed into the top corner with such accuracy his manager Jurgen Klopp labelled it “a genius strike.”
Soon after came the forward’s signature finish, a cute dink over advancing Roma goalkeeper Alisson for his 43rd goal in 47 games for Liverpool.
When Salah, 25, made the move from the Italian capital back to the Premier League just 10 months ago for €42 million ($51 million), there were plenty who felt Roma had got the better deal. Salah after all was a talented player, but who often lacked an end product.
It also came just a few weeks before Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record €222 million revolutionized the transfer market.
The Brazilian’s desire to leave the Catalan giants was tied to his ambition to beat Messi and Ronaldo to the Ballon d’Or by stepping out of Messi’s shadow.
Now, though, it is Salah who has emerged as the pretender to end the Messi-Ronaldo domination by not only scoring the quantity of goals that have become the pair’s trademark but doing it when it really matters, in the latter stages of the Champions League.
“If you think he is the best in the world, write it or say it,” urged Klopp, who has been credited with bringing out Salah’s previously untapped potential.
“To be the best in the world you need to do that over a longer period I think, and there are a few others that are not so bad.”
Heavily left-footed, small, speedy and with a low center of gravity, Salah’s characteristics are far more like those of Messi than the muscular goal-machine Ronaldo.
“In a certain light, at certain points, it is possible to glimpse in Salah a little of Messi’s afterglow,” wrote Rory Smith in the New York Times.
And he demonstrated another Messi-like quality in showing no mercy to Roma.
Chasing his first hat-trick in the Champions League, Salah would have been forgiven for going for goal as he bore down on Alisson once more after half-time.
But he showed why he is considered one of the game’s more unselfish superstars by instead creating another two goals for strike partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
When Salah left the field to a standing ovation 15 minutes from time, Liverpool led 5-0.
“Unstoppable (when Salah’s on the pitch),” said the back page of The Times.
Two late Roma away goals have at least given the Italians hope of recreating the incredible comeback they staged from a 4-1 first-leg deficit against Barca in the quarter-finals.
For once it is Salah’s turn to lead the way where Messi faltered on his return to the Eternal City next week.
Messi is almost certain to win a La Liga and Copa del Rey double and Ronaldo could lead Real Madrid to a third consecutive Champions League after another bucketload of goals this season.
But Salah is the coming man and after bagging the African and English players’ player of the year crowns, it is hard to back against him also conquering the world.