Thousands of football fans who turned up at the Etihad Stadium for Friday night’s international friendly between Argentina and Italy were left bitterly disappointed by the news that Lionel Messi had suffered an injury and wouldn’t be involved in the match.
Many people purchased tickets specifically to watch the world’s best footballer in action but the player and his coach, Jorge Sampaoli, decided the best course of action was to sit out due to concerns over his hamstring.
"I have been suffering from this hamstring injury for some time," Messi told TyC Sports, per Goal, before the game.
"I always want to play, but the road to the World Cup is still long. We decided to wait for this game [against Italy] to rest but I'm optimistic about playing against Spain."
In further disappointing news, especially for Manchester City fans who turned up, Sergio Aguero was also ruled out of the match through injury.
Despite the fact they were missing their two biggest stars, Argentina still managed to beat the Italians, securing a 2-0 victory courtesy of second-half goals from Ever Banega and Manuel Lanzini.
More than anything, Sampaoli will be delighted with the clean sheet. Argentina’s problem at the World Cup this summer won’t be scoring goals, you suspect, it’ll be preventing them from going in at the opposite end of the pitch.
Martin Atkinson did not book a single player
Curiously, English referee Martin Atkinson did not brandish a single yellow card during the 90 minutes.
There were a few crunching tackles and some shirt pulls but Atkinson, keen to allow the game to flow, waved play on each time.
Lanzini, however, could end up getting the 46-year-old match official into trouble after his eyebrow-raising comment after the match.
The West Ham midfielder told Argentine paper Ole, per Football Italia: “The referee told me that it was his last international match and so he wanted to see it out with no yellow cards.”
Lanzini's comments will raise suspicions
Hmm. Presumably that was a tongue-in-cheek comment from Atkinson to Lanzini but it will certainly raise suspicions.
Atkinson, who will not be involved in this summer’s World Cup finals in Russia, managed to complete the game without booking a single player and FIFA may decide to analyse the match footage to decide whether or not the Englishman was right not to hand out one yellow card.
It's certainly rare for a game to feature zero bookings these days.
Atkinson may end up wishing he'd said nothing to Lanzini.
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