Football: Messi-less Argentina thrill fans, beat Singapore 6-0 in friendly

The Argentina team celebrating after scoring a goal at the National Stadium on June 13, 2017. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Argentina's Angel Di Maria in action with Singapore's Zulfahmi Arifin. PHOTO: REUTERS
Fans cheering for their team at the Singapore versus Argentina football match at the National Stadium, on June 13, 2017. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud failing to save the ball from entering the goalpost. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Paulo Dybala of Argentina (right) competing for the ball with Hafiz Sujad of Singapore (left) of Singapore. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - More than 20,000 fans turned up expecting to see the men in white and sky-blue to serve up a feast of goals - at the expense of the Singapore national football team.

While V. Sundram Moorthy's men valiantly kept out world No. 2 side Argentina in the opening minutes, they eventually succumbed 6-0 to the two-time world champions in their friendly at the National Stadium on Tuesday night.

With slick one-touch passes and flicks that drew gasps from the crowd, the Albiceleste ran rings around Singapore's defence from kick-off.

A Lionel Messi-less Argentina had no intention of showing any mercy against a home side that is ranked 155 rungs below them in the Fifa world rankings. Five-time Player of the Year Messi left Singapore on Saturday night after making a brief stopover on his way from Melbourne - where Argentina beat Brazil on Friday in a friendly - to Barcelona.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli lined up with just two defenders Emanuel Mammana and Federico Fazio in their ultra-attacking 2-3-5 formation, and the starting XI also fielded top players like Juventus' Paulo Dybala, Paris Saint-Germain's Angel di Maria and West Ham's Manuel Lanzini.

The Argentinians looked like they would score every time they poured forward with delightful pace and footwork deep in Singapore's half.

But as hard as the Lions tried to park the bus to prevent their opponents from scoring, it was only a matter of time before Argentina broke through the hosts' defence. Federico Fazio tapped in from a Alejandro Gomez corner in the 25th minute, and Carlos Correa doubled the visitors' lead five minutes later.

As the footballers trooped off into the tunnel at half-time, some members of the Singapore team exchanged jerseys with their counterparts, perhaps signalling that the contest was effectively over then.

While it appeared that Argentina took a foot off the pedal in the second half, they were largely untroubled and kept Singapore in their own half.

Alejandro Gomez unleashed an unstoppable rocket from just outside the penalty box to make it 3-0 in the 60th minute. Substitute Leandro Paredes stretched the scoreline to four with his 74th minute goal, while Lucas Alario added another in the 90th minute.

Dybala and di Maria were kept for the entire duration of the game, and for fans who came out to watch their idols, they were given a treat as di Maria sealed the match with a final extra-time goal.

For the fans, who briefly broke out in a Kallang wave, it did not matter that the scoreline did not look pretty for the home team.

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