Messi laid in agony on the turf after being chopped down by Venezuela’s Adrian Martinez – who was subsequently sent off – during Argentina’s 3-1 win in their World Cup qualifier in Caracas
Lionel Messi was fortunate to finish Argentina’s World Cup qualifier with Venezuela without suffering a serious injury after a horror tackle which led to a red card.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward was scythed down by opponent Adrian Martinez, who had only been on the field a matter of minutes as a substitute during the game in Caracas on Thursday.
Messi skipped in ahead of Martinez to flick the ball round him into the path of a team-mate, as Martinez came clattering through with a sickening challenge.
The defender – who plays his club football for Deportivo La Guaira – raked his studs down Messi’s shin, causing his leg to bend backwards in an awkward shape.
The referee immediately brandished a yellow card to Martinez while awarding Argentina a free-kick on the edge of the box, though quickly upgraded his decision to a red card once he had consulted with the VAR.
Meanwhile, Messi laid on the floor in agony as physios rushed to treat him, and he fortunately was able to get up and continue.
From there Argentina turned the screw, going ahead not long after on the stroke of half-time when Lautaro Martinez slid the ball under Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez following a good pass from Tottenham star Giovani Lo Celso.
It took the visitors until the 71st minute to double their advantage, but quickly bagged two goals in succession to put the tie to bed.
First, Joaquin Correa drove into the box to fire home and make it 2-0, before Angel Correa netted just three minutes later after Farinez could only parry Martinez’s effort on goal.
Venezuela grabbed a late consolation as Yeferson Soteldo converted a cheeky panenka-style penalty in injury time after he had been fouled in the box by Alejandro Gomez.
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Messi was then greeted by a young pitch invader at full-time, who was wearing a PSG shirt bearing his name and got to hug his idol.
The win keeps Argentina second in the CONMEBOL table for qualification for next year’s tournament in Qatar with 15 points from their seven matches thus far.
They next meet Brazil on Sunday, who are out in front on 21 points, while Ecuador (12) follow closely behind in third.
Argentina then face Bolivia next Friday in their final fixture of this international break.
PSG will be relieved Messi managed to avoid any lasting problems from his clash, given he has so far only made one cameo appearance as a substitute since his move from Barcelona.
The 34-year-old came on with just over 20 minutes remaining of their 2-0 win over Reims in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
Their next fixture sees them take on Clermont Foot on Saturday September 11, less than 48 hours after Argentina’s showdown with Bolivia, placing Messi’s involvement in doubt.
His next outing could more likely be the Champions League tie with Club Brugge the following Wednesday, with all eyes on the meeting with Man City later this month.