Player ratings as favorites stunned in the premiere

Pre-tournament favorites Argentina endured the worst possible start to their World Cup campaign as their 36-match unbeaten run ended with a deserved 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.

Lionel Messi scored a penalty inside ten minutes but a fight-back from Saudi Arabia was sealed with excellent goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari after the break.

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Messi’s first sight of goal came inside two minutes when he ran onto a loose ball but just couldn’t bend his effort away from Saudi stopper Mohammed Al Owais.

Their fast start continued as VAR intervened to award Argentina a penalty in the eighth minute as Saud Abdulhamid was seen pulling Leandro Parede’s shirt and up stepped Messi to open the scoring with a composed finish from 12 yards.

However, Saudi Arabia responded well, with their high pressing causing many problems for Argentina as Lionel Scaloni’s men retained possession but did not always look comfortable doing so.

The Saudi high line created plenty of space in behind and Messi looked to have taken advantage of it when he finished one-on-one 22 minutes in, only for the offside flag to correctly rule it out. Lautaro Martinez had the ball in the back of the net twice in the next ten minutes but both efforts met the same fate.

Despite having the ball in the back of the net four times in the first half, Argentina were only 1-0 up at the break, with Saudi Arabia still very much in the game.

This sloppiness was punished when Saleh Al-Shehri beat Cristian Romero in pace and struck a fine shot across the face of the goal and into the bottom corner.

Eight minutes into the second half, Argentina were behind when Salem Al-Dawsari curled a brilliant effort from the edge of the penalty area into the top corner. A truly sensational strike.

A sensational challenge from Hassan Altambakti prevented Messi from netting an equaliser, before Nicolas Tagliafico failed to convert from around two yards as Al Owais pulled off a superb save to keep the team ahead.

Argentina’s pursuit of a second goal came through constant crosses into the box but they rarely posed any real threat, apart from a soft Messi header which was happily collected by the keeper.

Julian Alvarez saw an effort cleared off the line in stoppage time as Argentina desperately tried to claw their way back into the game, but they just couldn’t find another way through the sensational Saudi defence.

The match ended on a sour note as Yasir Al Shahrani was caught by his goalkeeper’s knee in a desperate attempt to clear the ball. The left-back moved around before being stretchered off and was seen giving the thumbs up, determined not to let his condition spoil a momentous victory for Saudi Arabia.

The offside flag was not Martinez’s friend / BSR Agency/GettyImages

GK: Emiliano Martinez – 6/10 – Didn’t have much to do at all apart from picking the ball out of his net.

RB: Nahuel Molina – 5/10 – Didn’t offer enough going forward and faded at the back.

CB: Cristian Romero – 5/10 – Was brutally fouled in the first half and beaten for a goal. Didn’t look very fit.

CB: Nicolas Otamendi – 6/10 – Had a tough fight against the Saudi strikers and mostly did well.

LB: Nicolas Tagliafico – 6/10 – Most of Saudi Arabia’s early threat came down from Tagliafico’s side and the left-back did very well to deal with it.

RM: Angel Di Maria – 4/10 – Felt wasted out wide. In a lot of space but not always involved in the game.

CM: Leandro Paredes – 4/10 – Didn’t do enough and was taken off for the equaliser.

CM: Rodrigo de Paul – 3/10 – Not involved enough and guilty of unforced errors which invited pressure.

LM: Alejandro Gomez – 3/10 – Really struggled to influence the game from outside. Not his strongest showing.

ST: Lionel Messi – 6/10 – A threat to the Saudi defense from the first minute, although he struggled to find space in the second half.

ST: Lautaro Martinez – 4/10 – Some dangerous attacking runs but needs to revise the offside rule before the next game.

SUB: Julian Alvarez (59′ for Gomez) – 5/10 – Didn’t offer much on the left.

SUB: Enzo Fernandez (59′ for Paredes) – 6/10 – Restored some control of the midfield battle.

SUB: Lisandro Martinez (59′ for Romero) – 6/10 – Didn’t have much to do as all the action was at the other end of the pitch.

SUB: Marcos Acuna (70′ for Tagliafico) – 5/10 – High crosses against Martinzez and Messi didn’t make much sense.

Manager: Lionel Scaloni – 4/10 – Couldn’t adjust to the Saudi high line and his triple substitution on the hour didn’t change much.

A sensational display / Alex Livesey – Danehouse/GettyImages

GK: Mohammed Al Owais – 8/10 – Benefited from a number of offside calls but mostly did his job when required. A fantastic save from Tagliafico.

RB: Saud Abdulhamid – 7/10 – A really stupid decision to concede the penalty that ruined an otherwise great performance.

CB: Hassan Altambakti – 9/10 – Really intelligent positioning to continuously catch Argentina offside. Made a surreal challenge to stop Messi early in the second half. Celebrated every tackle as a goal.

CB: Ali Al-Bulayhi – 8/10 – Likewise, he made some brave decisions that regularly paid off.

LB: Yasir Al Shahrani – 7/10 – Really impressive down the left. Caught Di Maria out on a number of occasions.

DM: Abdulelah Al Malki – 7/10 – Probably a bit too aggressive with his challenges but can’t argue with the effectiveness.

RM: Saleh Al-Shehri – 7/10 – Took his goal incredibly well and was a real pest for Argentina.

CM: Mohamed Kanno – 8/10 – All over the pitch as he dominated the midfield battle at both ends of the pitch. Really impressive.

CM: Salman Al-Faraj – 6/10 – Picked up an injury early on and struggled with it until just before half-time.

LM: Salem Al-Dawsari – 7/10 – An absolutely sensational goal. They don’t get much better on a stage like this.

ST: Firas Al-Buraikan – 7/10 – A rather lucky assist for the first goal but it was nothing less than his play deserved.

SUB: Nawaf Al-Abid (45′ for Al-Faraj) – 6/10 – Offered some nice energy in midfield.

SUB: Sultan Al Ghanam (78′ for Al-Shehri) – 6/10 – Did his job to help at the back.

SUB: Abdulelah Al Amri (88′ for Al-Abid) – N/A

SUB: Haitham Asiri (88′ for Al-Buraikan) – N/A

SUB: Mohammed Al Burayk (99′ for Al Shahrani) – N/A

Manager: Herve Renard – 9/10 – A really bold strategy that saw his side concede three offside goals in the first half, but you can’t argue with the results. Renard took a huge risk and it paid off.

Player of the match – Hassan Altambakti

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