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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

US survive Messi’s masterclass to draw with Argentina

Posted: 26 Mar 2011 08:17 PM PDT

Argentina's Lionel Messi (2nd from right) is challenged by Jay DeMerit (right), Maurice Edu (7) and Timothy Chandler of the US, during their international friendly match in East Rutherford, New Jersey on March 26, 2011. — Reuters pic

EAST RUTHERFORD, March 27 — American teenager Juan Agudelo pounced on a rare defensive mistake from Argentina to earn the United States a 1-1 draw in a friendly international at the new Meadowlands Stadium yesterday.

Argentina dominated the match from start to finish, with Lionel Messi (picture) teasing and tormenting the Americans with his full bag of tricks, but they only converted one of their numerous chances.

That came late in the first half when Messi threaded the ball between the legs of the US captain Carlos Bocanegra and Esteban Cambiasso blasted home a rebound from the edge of the six-yard box.

Despite being heavily marked, Messi threatened to extend his team's lead on several occasions, but the Americans scrambled well in defense and then snatched an equalizer in the 59th minute against the run of play.

"I think we had a great first half. At times, we were brilliant," Argentina coach Sergio Batista, speaking through a translator, told a news conference.

"I think the soccer we want to see was there.... but we didn't finish that well."

A lapse in concentration was all it took for the Americans to square the ledger in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 79,000, which had been bolstered by the appearance of Messi.


Carlos Bocanegra headed a free kick from Landon Donovan straight at the Argentine goalkeeper Mariano Andujar, who fumbled the ball at the feet of Agudelo.

The 18-year-old, who came on as a second half replacement, reacted first, slamming the ball into the net to register his second goal in just three international appearances.

"He's had a knack now for turning up in some good spots to score goals," American head coach Bob Bradley said.

Bradley admitted his team had been mostly outplayed by an Argentina side that controlled the ball for long periods, leaving the home side to survive off scraps off possession.

Messi had provided Bradley and his tacticians with headaches in defense but the coach said he was impressed with the way his players coped while under constant pressure.

"We came away with a good result against a very good team," Bradley said.

"We understood that the first half didn't go the way we wanted, but I was pleased with the way we responded."

For both teams, the match was the first of two games they are playing in three days to help prepare themselves for their respective continental championships they are hosting later this year.

The US, hosts of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in June, face Paraguay in Nashville on Tuesday while the Argentineans will travel to Costa Rica as part of their build-up to the Copa America in July. — Reuters

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Britain’s Laird stays on top at Arnold Palmer

Posted: 26 Mar 2011 07:24 PM PDT

Martin Laird of Scotland tees off on the second hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando on March 26, 2011. — Reuters pic

ORLANDO, March 27 — Britain's Martin Laird regained his composure after making successive bogeys to head into today's final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a two shot lead.

The Scotsman wobbled with bogeys on the 14th and 15th but recovered to birdie the next hole and finish the day with a two-under 70 and a 54-hole total of 11-under par.

It is the third time Laird has led after 54 holes in a PGA Tour event — and he does not have fond memories of the last occasion.

At the Barclays in August, taking a three-shot lead into the final day, he three-putted the final hole and lost to American Matt Kuchar in a playoff.

Laird said he had taken the positives out of that disappointing experience.

"It kind of showed me you don't have to play perfect to win. I came so close while not having my perfect game.

"You don't have to have every aspect of your game firing on all cylinders to win tournaments. There's just something — you need a couple of breaks here or there and really make some putts," he said.

Spencer Levin of the US ended the round in outright second place, two behind Laird, after shooting 71. Levin briefly shared the lead with Laird but made successive bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes to slip behind.

Americans Bubba Watson (68) and Steve Marino (71) were tied for third place, four shots behind Laird, who was searching for just his second PGA Tour victory but has nine players within six strokes of him.

Tiger Woods' hopes of a seventh win at Bay Hill were effectively sunk when he twice found the water in a disappointing round of 74, leaving him 10 strokes behind Laird.

On the 13th, Woods made a mess of a routine approach from the middle of the fairway, finding the water short of the green and double bogeying.

The former world number one was in damp trouble again on the par-5 16th when he went for an ambitious shot from a fairway bunker 184 yards from the hole and ended up with a bogey.

"The round kind of turned at 13. I had to get aggressive there," Woods said.

"I figured I needed to probably shoot three or four under par at least to have a chance going into tomorrow. I paid the price for it."

Rickie Fowler also had problems, double bogeying after a wayward tee shot into the water at the sixth, then three-putting the par-three seventh, but the 22-year-old American recovered to card a 70 and end the day tied with David Toms at six-under. — Reuters

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