ARGENTINA superstar Lionel Messi lit up the Maracana Stadium last night with a sensational second-half strike to help see off stubborn Bosnia.
The two-time World Cup winners struggled to break down Bosnia after taking the lead through an early Sead Kolasinac own goal, until Messi stormed through the defence to fire his team to the top of Group F, with rivals Iran and Nigeria to play tonight.
But Bosnia’s first ever World Cup goal through Vedad Ibisevic, plus a strong display against one of the tournament favourites, gave them much to cheer.
The South Americans made the perfect start to their pursuit of a first Jules Rimet trophy since 1986, taking the lead on three minutes.
Messi’s free-kick from the left-flank was glanced across the penalty area by Marcos Rojo, hit hapless defender Kolasinac and rolled in.
But for much of the first half Argentina found well organised opposition, making their debut at a World Cup finals, difficult to break down and only former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano called goalkeeper Asmir Begovic into action with the Stoke stopper beating away a 25-yard half-volley.
Bosnia went closest to an equaliser shortly before half-time with goalkeeper Sergio Romero at his best to push away Senad Lulic’s header.
Argentina made a double change at half-time, bringing on Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago, yet still Bosnia nullified the effectiveness of Real Madrid’s attacking midfielder Angel di Maria and Messi.
But finally Barcelona’s diminutive superstar produced a moment of magic. On 65 minutes Messi exchanged passes with Sergio Aguero, glided past challenges from two Bosnia defenders and fired in low at the near post from the edge of the penalty area.
It was Messi’s first goal at a World Cup finals since 2006 and one of the finest strikes of the tournament so far after four fabulously entertaining days in Brazil.
With five minutes remaining Ibisevic squeezed a low shot through the legs of Romero to register a notable consolation for Bosnia.