World Cup winners Argentina beat a spirited Indonesia 2-0 in a lucrative friendly in Jakarta on Monday without global superstar Lionel Messi.
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Leandro Paredes opened the scoring after 38 minutes, stepping forward and hitting a rocket into the top corner after staunch defending from the home side.
Messi, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and new Inter Miami signing, pulled out of the game after weeks of hype in Indonesia but that didn’t stop a raucous crowd in the Gelora Bung Karno stadium.
The 149th-ranked home team was met by roars from a crowd of more than 60,000 that formed a sea of red shirts.
Argentina applied pressure from the kick-off, dominating the ball as Indonesia weathered the storm for the first half an hour.
Man City star Julian Alvarez could have grabbed two goals after Indonesia goalkeeper Ernando Ari Sutaryadi and naturalised centre-back Jordi Amat were both caught on the ball in their own box.
Wingers Nicolas Gonzalez and Facundo Buonanotte also drew saves from the Indonesian keeper before the opening goal.
Argentinian keeper Emiliano Martinez had his own work to do, making a smart low save at the end of the first half before tipping a looping header over the bar as Indonesia pressed for an equaliser.
But Argentina made their pressure count, denting any Indonesian hopes on 55 minutes when Tottenham defender Cristian Romero lost his man to thump home a header.
Argentina were without several other first-choice regulars in Jakarta, including Juventus midfielder Angel Di Maria and Benfica defender Nicolas Otamendi.
They beat Australia in another friendly in Beijing last week, with Messi scoring the quickest goal of his career in a 2-0 win.
Bringing Argentina to Jakarta for the first senior international match between the two sides cost the Indonesian football association as much as 5 million USD, according to local media.
Indonesians did not get a glimpse of Argentina’s modern-day superstar Messi but they were happy to see the world champions play their hometown heroes.
“If Messi came, we would be more excited,” said Fahri Satria, a 30-year-old tourism worker.
“But it’s okay.”
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