Sabella starts with a win
Otamendi header sinks Venezuela in Kolkata
Last Updated: September 2, 2011 7:52pm
Nicolas Otamendi's second-half goal ensured new coach Alejandro Sabella started his Argentina reign on a winning note courtesy of a 1-0 success over Venezuela.
Lionel Messi, captaining his country for the first time, supplied the corner from which Porto defender Otamendi headed home the game's only goal in the 67th minute at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
Barcelona ace Messi, who featured as centre-forward in the previous regime under Sergio Batista, was given the role of playmaker, with Luis Gonzalez on the right and Angel Di Maria on the left.
The first two chances of the match fell to Di Maria - both courtesy of Messi assists - but the Real Madrid winger failed to find the breakthrough either from his shot from the edge of the area or when one on one with Venezuela goalkeeper Rafael Romo.
Messi also went close in the 23rd minute when Udinese shot-stopper Romo could not hold on, but the Fifa World Player of the Year was just unable to pounce on the loose ball.
Venezuela were defending deeply as half-time approached, restricting Sabella's men to long-range shots as they struggled to break down their opponents' defence.
The Venezuelans looked more positive after the break, but it was Argentina who continued to look the more dangerous.
Messi sent a free-kick just wide in the 62nd minute and then set up Gonzalo Higuain, who lashed his attempt against the bar.
The deadlock was finally broken minutes later as Otamendi powered home a header from Messi's corner.
A raft of substitutions did little to help the flow of the game in the final 20 minutes, although Romo had to be alert to keep out Messi on two more occasions.
Argentina will remain in Asia for another game on Tuesday - against Nigeria in Dhaka, Bangladesh.