LIONEL MESSI TAKES PRECAUTIONARY LEAVE AFTER LOSING ARGENTINA RETURN
Messi showed flashes of brilliance but it was not his night as Venezuela put three past their more illustrious rivals for the first time with goals from Salomon Rondon, Jhon Murillo and Josef Martinez. Lautaro Martinez scored Argentina's consolation.
The team announced after the loss that Messi will miss Tuesday's match against Morocco as a precaution following a groin injury. Atlanta United's Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez will also skip the match in Tangier with a hamstring injury.
Following the match, Argentina manager Luis Scaloni said: "The second half left us with positive things and the first half with negative ones. Better that they happened that way.
"We learned a lot from this loss. The situations we created were largely in due part to Messi. This match helped us to see how [the others] played alongside Messi."
Messi took a sabbatical after his country's early departure from last year's finals in Russia, but he returned with a clean shaven new look to captain the side in the all-South American affair at Atletico Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano stadium.
Venezuela had only beaten Argentina once in 23 previous encounters, but they got the perfect start after five minutes when Rondon brought down a long pass inside the box and crashed a shot past keeper Franco Armani.
Rondon should have made it two with a header in the 40th but the second goal was only moments away as Murillo took advantage of a quick free kick to scamper to the edge of the box and curl a lovely right-foot shot into the far corner of the net.
Lautaro Martinez finished off a superb counter-attack to pull Argentina back into the game after 59 minutes but their hopes were short lived and Venezuela's Josef Martinez made it 3-1 from the penalty spot with a quarter of an hour remaining.
"In the first half we created chances but they scored twice when we made mistakes," said Lautaro Martinez. "In the second half we did well and moved the ball about but they got that penalty. We need to keep improving."
And striker Dario Benedetto added: "Messi is the best player in the world and we have to adapt ourselves to fastest way possible to him."
After the match, Venezuela boss Rafael Dudamel said he would give up the post due to political situation that surrounds the team.
The country has been embroiled in an ongoing political and constitutional crisis with more than 50 countries denouncing leader Nicolas Maduro in recognizing Juan Guaido as the interim leader.
A representative of Guaido posted a photo of a meeting with the team prior to the match and Dudamel said: "I have spoken with the vice president and I have put my job at the disposition of the directors because all this time we are navigating very turbulent waters. Everything has been politicized and I am the coach for the whole country."
Dudamel added he would continue as coach for Venezuela's next match on Monday against Catalonia.