Lionel Messi marked his retirement about face with a goal to give 10-man Argentina a 1-0 win over Uruguay on Thursday that lifted them to the top of the South American qualifying group for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
In a match of few chances, Messi created something out of nothing three minutes before halftime when, surrounded by defenders, his shot from outside the box took a deflection on Jose Maria Gimenez and wrongfooted goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
It took Messi’s record as Argentina’s top scorer to 56 in his 114th international and proved the perfect insurance for his team who were reduced to 10 men when young forward Paulo Dybala was sent off on the stroke of halftime.
Dybala, who had almost put his side ahead in the 31st minute with a shot that hit the post, was sent off for a second booking and left the pitch in tears after his first start for Argentina.
Uruguay, who had spent virtually the entire first half defending, took the game to Argentina in the second but hardly troubled goalkeeper Sergio Romero.