Argentina bounced back from their shock defeat to Venezuela with a slender 1-0 win over Morocco in a blustery Tangier on Tuesday.
Lionel Scaloni’s men were soundly beaten 3-1 by their South American rivals in Madrid on Friday and while they avoided another embarrassment at the Stade Ibn Batouta, they rarely looked like a side ranked 11th in the world.
Lionel Messi, who made his return to international football at the Wanda Metropolitano, did not make the trip to Morocco and his side desperately missed his spark and invention.
The chronic wind was hardly conducive to incisive attacking football, but a moment of rare quality from substitute Angel Correa seven minutes from time sealed the win for Scaloni’s side.
¡Final del partido! Con gol de Ángel Correa, el Seleccionado Nacional triunfó en el estadio de Tánger! pic.twitter.com/iNVfmcktmO
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) March 26, 2019
Morocco started in positive fashion, Khalid Boutaib firing straight at Esteban Andrada from the edge of the penalty area after 10 minutes.
That was the closest either side came, though, in what was an insipid first half with Argentina’s forwards Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala cutting particularly isolated figures.
The busiest man in the opening period by some distance was referee Janny Sikazwe, who dished out four yellow cards after numerous flashpoints between the two sets of players.
Martinez was put out of his misery shortly after the interval, hauled off for Matias Suarez after making just a single successful pass in his 56 minutes on the pitch.
Just when the game looked to be petering out for the most forgettable of goalless draws Atletico Madrid forward Correa sparked into life.
The 24-year-old collected Suarez’s pass on the edge of the penalty area, waltzed past Achraf Hakimi and clipped a low drive past Yassine Bounou to secure an undeserved win.
What does it mean? Scale of Scaloni’s task is clear
It was a much-changed side from Friday’s nightmare in Madrid, but Scaloni will be concerned at how comfortably a team 32 places below them in the world rankings kept his men at bay. Correa’s late moment of quality handed them the win, but a demanding Argentinian public will not be fooled.
He will need to oversee a dramatic improvement if they are to avoid a repeat of their poor campaign in Russia at the looming Copa America.
Sikazwe keeps his head
Amid flagrant petulance from both sides, the Zambian official excelled in his role as the only adult on the pitch. He could easily have handed out at least a couple of red cards but showed admirable restraint and did well to diffuse a series of clashes that could have spiralled out of control.
Dybala fails to take his chance
Given the opportunity to shine in the absence of Lionel Messi – alongside the equally ineffective Martinez – the Juventus forward rarely tested the hosts’ backline. He still only has one goal for his country and on this form, it is not hard to see why.
Argentina kick off their Copa America campaign on June 15 against Colombia, while Morocco will continue preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations, which starts in June.
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