Ar­gentina’s Sampaoli off to a win­ning start

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

JORGE SAMPAOLI en­joyed a per­fect start to his Ar­gentina reign with a 1-0 friendly win over Brazil yes­ter­day, end­ing op­pos­ing coach Tite’s hon­ey­moon in front of a mam­moth crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Sampaoli un­veiled a new front three in the ‘Su­per­cla­sico’ Down Un­der, with Paulo Dy­bala and Gon­zalo Higuain form­ing a for­mi­da­ble at­tack­ing tri­umvi­rate along­side tal­is­man Lionel Messi.

But it was a Gabriel Mer­cado strike on the verge of half­time and a prof­li­gate Brazil at­tack that proved de­ci­sive, end­ing Tite’s per­fect record of nine suc­ces­sive wins dat­ing back to Septem­ber.

With Ney­mar and a host of top play­ers skip­ping the tour, Brazil missed a num­ber of sec­ond half chances, leav­ing Sampaoli grate­ful for the win in front of more than 95 000 spec­ta­tors.

“We knew it would be com­pli­cated be­cause we were try­ing to set up a team for the fu­ture,” the for­mer Chile man­ager told re­porters through a trans­la­tor. “I can’t re­ally tell you that we’ve con­sol­i­dated a team. This con­sol­i­da­tion will take time. I would be ly­ing if I told you ev­ery­thing went to plan but we’ve got the idea and we are be­gin­ning this jour­ney.”

Tite’s night was soured when for­ward Gabriel Je­sus was taken off the field on a stretcher in stop­page time af­ter suf­fer­ing a knock to the face from his Manch­ester City team­mate Nico­las Ota­mendi.

“He had an in­jury, had a prob­lem on his face, so he just went to hos­pi­tal and we are wait­ing to see what hap­pened to him,” Tite told re­porters. – Reuters

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