Lionel Messi was lucky to escape without an injury in Argentina’s 2-0 victory over Panama last night, as two players tackled him at the same time in the opening 15 minutes.
There was a party-like atmosphere inside the stadium asLa Albicelesteplayed their first game in front of a home crowd since lifting the World Cup in Qatar.
Lionel Scaloni named the same team that started the World Cup final, and there were emotional scenes ahead of the game with Messi in tears due to the reception that Argentina received.
The Paris Saint-Germain winger then produced an exceptional performance, with Thiago Almada opening the scoring after Messi’s free-kick hit the woodwork in the 79th minute.
Ten minutes later, another free-kick from the 35-year-old hit the back of the net, taking Messi’s tally to 800 career goals.
It was his 99th in an Argentina shirt, with the winger also scoring 701 goals at club level.
Messi’s lucky escape
But all of that might not have happened and the celebrations might have turned sour when Messi was on the receiving end of a rash challenge in the opening quarter of an hour.
Picking up the ball in the opposition half, Messi looked to skip past two challenges from Panama players.
However, both Kevin Galvan and Jose Manuel Murillo slide in to win the ball, missing it and catching the player instead.
As the referee blows for a foul both sets of players rush in, with Panama pleading their innocence while Argentina demand action.
Watch: Double challenge leaves Messi on the floor
amonestado Kevin Galván en Panama por una fuerte patada a Lionel Messi 😡😡😡 pic.twitter.com/rGsFsLDm3G
— Argentina Gol (@BocaJrsGol) March 23, 2023
Messi kickstarts party in Argentina
Luckily, Messi escaped without injury and went on to drag Argentina to victory in the second half.
That victory kick-started celebrations inside the stadium, with a ceremony being held to commemorate Argentina’s success in Qatar.
Messi even had time to take pictures and sign the shirts of opposition players, who were all eager to remember the night that they played the GOAT.
The winger then spoke to the Buenos Aires crowd, thanking them all for their affection.
His sentiments were echoed by head coach Scaloni, who paid tribute to his players after the game and even led the chants for Messi after the game.
Lionel Scaloni leading the Leo Messi chants 🗣️
— B/R Football (@brfootball) March 24, 2023
“Eternal gratitude to these players,” the 44-year-old said. “Football belongs to them, and without them we wouldn’t have won the World Cup.
“Everyone who wears this shirt gives their all and sometimes the results don’t come. But this time we got it and it’s incredible.”