Kolkata: Lionel Messi weaved his magic though without scoring as he played full 90 minutes to enthrall the football-crazy fans in Argentina's 1-0 victory over Venezuela in a FIFA international friendly at Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Friday.

The 120,000 capacity stadium did not see a packed house, a common sight during the local Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal derby but it had enough Messi elements for a real treat for the nearly 75,000 spectators at the venue and many more on television across the country and abroad.

Messi sparkled throughout the match, though Venezuela kept the Argentines under pressure.

It was in the second half, a 67th minute goal by Nicolas Otamendi from a Messi corner that sealed the issue for the Argentines.

The Argentine approach was more restrained in the first half as new coach Alejandro Sabella, in his maiden appearance at the helm of affairs for the Albicelestes, gave more stress on the ball possession and passing.

They dominated the midfield, with some magical Messi footwork but failed to translate into goals as the final pass or the shot was lacking.

But the spectators had a lifetime of a treat with some real Messi moments.

Early into the start, the spectators were left mesmerized by a clever Messi footwork off a foul at the top of the box but the FC Barcelona talisman could only found the wall from his powerful left-footer in the fourth minute

Five minutes later, Argentina got the first real chance but the Real Madrid medio Agnel D'Maria nearly put it in the goal before an alert Venezuela defender averted the danger. It also had the Messi element in it as the little genius nearly had it through Di Maria but only in vain.


Messi magic fails to draw a packed house

Star footballer Lionel Messi's magic failed to garner a packed Yuba Bharati Krirangan, an usual sight during a Mohun Bagan versus East Bengal local derby, but it did bring in a galaxy of celebrities and dignitaries from all over India here.

Chief guest M K Narayanan, who was introduced to the players before the match kicked off at 7:10 pm, confessed himself as a Messi fan, while the All India Football Federation boss Praful Patel too admitted his liking for the little genius.

But it was quite surprising why the Messi magic failed to see a packed house as about 80,000 spectators watched the match live in the 1,20,000 capacity Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

Among the Bollywood brigade, Rahul Bose came alongside retired former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia, while Ranbir Kapoor, Neha Dhupia, Shaan and Babul Supriyo were also seen cheering "Messi, Messi ..." from the VIP stands.

Even as the upper tier was almost packed, the midddle and lower tiers on the left side of the VIP arena cut a sorry figure in front of the world's most glamourous team.

Messi and his team were greeted with loud cheers by the crowd when they stepped on to the field around 6:20pm. The sporting Kolkata crowd also gave an equal cheer for the Venezuelan team.

However, the cheers were far less deafening than the boisterious and frenzied support generated during a Mohun Bagan vs East Bengal clash, which incidentally is listed by FIFA as one of the world's top rivalries.

While entering, Praful Patel said: "This is the highest standard of football being seen in India for the first time. Of course, I am a Messi fan. But I'm here as a dignitary and want both Venezuela and argentina to do well."

Traffic chaos in Kolkata

If it was Lionel Messi magic inside the Yuba Bharati Krirangan this evening, outside of it there was a big traffic mess forcing many spectators to arrive late after the match kicked off at 7.10pm.

With all the roads in the football-crazy city leading to the stadium, long traffic snare could be seen along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass on which the 120,000 capacity Salt Lake stadium is located.

Even as the district police along with the city police were working in tandem, the traffic mismanagement led to a lot of chaos as the EM Bypass on the periphery of the stadium turned into choc-a-block.

Many frustrated fans gave up and began to walk along the long stretch and it took time for the spectators to trickle into the stadium.

About 70,000 spectators could be seen in the three tiers of the 120,000 capacity stadium as the match kicked off.

The rain in the afternoon made it all the more difficult apart from the traffic chaos as vehicles took time to move along the road.

 The stadium was swarmed with police personnel and private agency people as foolproof security measures were put in place for the high profile FIFA international friendly between Argentina and Venezuela.

A three layer security arrangement was in place in the stadium with 5,000 armed police personnel being deployed.

(Agencies)