Suadi Arabia held a strong Argentina to a goalless draw in Riyadh
Lionel Messi endured a rare quiet night as Argentina could only register a goalless draw against Saudi Arabia.
Last Updated: 14/11/12 8:07pm
The South Americans were far from their best and came close to losing to the Saudis, who are led by former Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard, and who have already crashed out of World Cup qualifying.
The hosts had the clearest chances of a surprisingly tight opening half. Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero had to make a smart save after 18 minutes from Mohammed Al Shamrani cross-shot following a counter-attack.
Al Shahrani then had the ball in the net 10 minutes later when he headed in a Saud Kariri free-kick but the linesman's flag was already raised for offside. Alejandro Sabella's side produced little as an attacking threat in the first 45 minutes with Manchester City full-back Pablo Zabaleta their best option while Benfica's Eduardo Salvio buzzed about in midfield.
At half-time Sabella sent on Wigan striker Franco Di Santo and Ricardo Alvarez to give his side more of an attacking edge.
But the bad night for Messi and company continued as Saudi Arabia maintained their superiority and the visitors needed Fabricio Coloccini to make a goal-line clearance from a Mansoor Al Harbi shot.
After that Argentina improved slightly and a good combination between Sergio Aguero and substitute Augusto Fernandez finished with the latter forcing Waleed Abdullah into a good stop. The ball rebounded to Di Santo but he could not find the net.
Messi had been a near passenger for the majority of the night until he finally provided a glimpse of his brilliance. The Barca playmaker avoided a pair of defenders before his snap-shot was blocked by defender Al Harbi.
Shortly after, the Rosario-born midfielder connected well with Angel Di Maria and went head-to-head with the Abdullah, who made another excellent stop and preserve his clean sheet.