Lionel Messi outshone his Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo but the latter’s team took the spoils as a late header from substitute Raphael Guerreiro snatched victory for Portugal in a disappointing friendly at Old Trafford.
The fixture had been billed as a showdown between Messi and Ronaldo — a spectacle that turned out only to last until half-time, when both players were substituted in somewhat anti-climactic circumstances.
Certainly, it was the Argentinian who had made the bigger impression, hitting a post and causing frequent problems, while ex-Manchester United man Ronaldo struggled to get into the game on his return to his old ground, with his only real chance of note being struck over.
Portugal then stole a victory they barely deserved in the dying seconds when defender Guerreiro headed home Ricardo Quaresma’s cross.
Messi had been swiftly to the fore early on, proving a thorn in Portugal’s side as he drifted around from his starting position out on the right.
In the fifth minute he teed up Angel di Maria, who drilled wide.
Six minutes later, Messi came close to scoring himself, playing a neat one-two and seeing his strike come off the base of the near post.
The first really notable moment involving a Portugal player came when Nani, on loan from United at Sporting Lisbon, brought down Di Maria. Treatment was required, but Di Maria was able to continue.
A chance finally came Ronaldo’s way around the half-hour mark when he collected a cross in the box and turned Lucas Biglia inside out before firing over the bar.
Messi continued to look a threat towards the end of the half before his and Ronaldo’s exit.
Argentina then continued to have the upper hand after the break, with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Di Maria and substitute Nicolas Gaitan trying their luck unsuccessfully.
Ex-United and City frontman Carlos Tevez came on, along with Tottenham’s Erik Lamela, but Argentina were still unable to make a breakthrough and it came back to haunt them at the death.
lIn Vienna, Brazil continued their winning start under new coach Dunga with a 2-1 victory over Austria.
Robert Firmino’s stunning late strike won it after David Luiz’s opener had been cancelled out by Aleksandar Dragovic’s penalty.