Messi pilots Argentina past fighting Ivory Coast at Olympics

August 8th, 2008 - 10:06 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 8 (IANS) Lionel Messi and playmaker Juan Riquelme carried Argentina past a fighting Ivory Coast 2-1 in their opening match of the Olympic soccer competition Thursday. The day also saw five players being banished with referees brandishing red card.

Defending champions and favourites Argentina owed it to their Barcelona magician Messi, who has been allowed to stay with his country’s team and struck the first goal a couple of minutes before the interval.

The Africans struck back in 10 minutes through Sekou Cisse. Messi did the spade work for the winner four minutes from the end as his sprint down the field resulted in Lautaro Acosta tapping home.

In the other Group A match, Australia and Serbia shared two goals. Ruben Zadovich gave the Socceroos the lead in the 69th minute and 10 minutes later Slobodan Rajkovic scored for Serbia.

The two Group B games had little by way of action in the box as there was only one goal scored. Holland and Nigeria were locked goalless, with Dutch player Evander Sno getting amrching orders, while the US eked out a solitary goal victory over Japan. Houston Dynamo’s Scottish-born midfielder Stuart Holden scored the lone goal in the second half.

In Group C, Brazil failed to show their known skills in scoring a lacklustre 1-0 victory over Belgium, Hernanes scoring the winner 11 minutes from time. The Brazilians should also thank Vincent Kompany (72nd minute) and Marouane Fellaini (88) going out with red cards.

In the same group, China were in unimpressive playing out a 1-1 draw against New Zealand.

The Chinese conceded the goal first, Jeremy Brockie scoring in the 53rd minute, but pulled that back courtesy Manchester United striker Dong Fangzhuo who found the equaliser in the 88th minute. New Zealand were reduced to 10 men for 50 minutes as Steven Old was shown a second yellow card.

Italy easily dismissed Honduras 3-0 and South Korea held 1-1 by Cameroon in Group D. Italians scored through Sebatsian Giovinco, and then Giuseppe Rossi (45) and Robert Acquafresca (52) rounded off the scoring, converting a penalty each.

Honduras, too, had a spot-kick opportunity, but Carlos Pavon kicked over with eight minutes left. A 68th minute goal by Park Chu-young should have sealed the match for South Korea, but Georges Mandjeck scored for Cameroon with nine minutes remaining. In the injury time, Cameroonian Albert Baning was shown a red card.

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