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Messi misses PK as Argentina draws Iceland

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  • Argentina goal: Aguero (19′)
  • Iceland goal: Finnbogason (23′)
  • Next: Argentina-Croatia, Iceland-Nigeria

Hannes Halldorsson made six saves including a Lionel Messi penalty as Iceland held Argentina to a 1-1 draw in Moscow on Saturday in both sides’ World Cup openers.

Messi won a free kick in the fifth of five minutes of stoppage time, and his bid to join rival Cristiano Ronaldo as a last-minute hero went into the wall.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Tagliafico nodded Messi’s ninth minute free kick wide of the goal, the second time Argentina tempted the goal in the first 10.

Iceland had its early moment, too, thanks to poor passing from Argentina in its final third. Birkir Bjarnason pushed wide his near post effort.

Messi just missed a chance before Aguero opened the scoring, creating space on his left and ripping a shot into the goal.

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Messi tore into a 21st minute shot that didn’t turn enough to find the inside of the near post.

Yet it was Iceland who’d score next, with Finnbogason poking a rebound between Nicolas Otamendi’s legs to make it 1-1.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Messi opened the lid on a packed-in Iceland defense to find Aguero, whose heels were clipped to earn a penalty for Argentina.

But Hannes Halldórsson denied Messi’s effort to keep the score 1-1.

Messi had two more chances as the match stretched into its final 10 minutes.

Halldórsson then made his sixth save with an outstanding reaction stop on Aguero.

VIDEO: Aguero creates space, smashes first World Cup goal

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Sergio Aguero and Alfred Finnbogason have traded early goals as Argentina and Iceland kick off their 2018 World Cups.

Aguero has 37 international goals, but his first World Cup goal came in his ninth appearance at the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Argentina-Iceland LIVE ]

Nicolas Tagliafico nodded Lionel Messi’s ninth minute free kick wide of the goal, the second time Argentina tempted the goal in the first 10.

Iceland had its early moment, too, thanks to poor passing from Argentina in its final third. Birkir Bjarnason pushed wide his near post effort.

Messi just missed a chance before Aguero opened the scoring, creating space on his left and ripping a shot into the goal.

Yet it was Iceland who’d score next, with Finnbogason poking a rebound between Nicolas Otamendi’s legs to make it 1-1.

Here’s Aguero’s pretty turn and hit.

Sergio Aguero undergoes knee surgery

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It appears that Manchester City’s leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero will miss the rest of the 2017/18 Premier League season.

Aguero, 29, has been struggling with a right knee injury and hasn’t started a game since City’s win against Chelsea on Mar. 4 and made a brief substitute appearance in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg defeat against Liverpool after being caught with a heavy challenge by Ashley Young in the Manchester derby after coming on as a sub.

He was left out of the squad entirely for the 3-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday and the Argentine striker, City’s all-time leading scorer with 199 goals, sent out a message on Twitter on Tuesday confirming his injury.

“Recovering from an arthroscopy on my knee. Fully motivated to get back soon to the field,” Aguero said.

Reports state that Aguero will be out for around a month, which means he is likely to miss City’s final five Premier League games with the champions aiming to set new records for the number of points, goals and games won in a single season.

Pep Guardiola was previously optimistic that Aguero could be back for the final few games of the season, but why would City risk rushing their star striker back?

Gabriel Jesus, 21, will now be tasked with being City’s main attacking threat for the rest of the season as the Brazilian has returned from his own knee injury and has scored three goals in his last five games.

Still, there’s only one Aguero and there’s no doubt City missed him badly in the two Champions League defeats to Liverpool earlier this month.

Having the surgery now means that Aguero will be fully fit for the World Cup this summer and will have a nice rest before the tournament.

Areas of improvement for Man City next season

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Many are trumpeting Manchester City’s amazing title season as the tip of the iceberg under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.

While the club’s momentum was tired by a pair of losses to Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League and a come-from-ahead failure versus Manchester United, the City set is prepared to smash any number of records by season’s end.

Yet it’s not irresponsible to suggest City will get better in 2018-19. Any argument that teams may figure out Guardiola can be mooted by his players’ increased familiarity with his system. There’s an argument to be made that City will lose more matches based solely on bounces and luck, but Guardiola’s men can perform better even with the stylish demands of their boss.

Here’s how:

Return of Mendy — Benjamin Mendy was a thrilling addition to the team before his ruptured ACL caused him to become more known for his entertaining Twitter feed than anything he’d do with a ball at his feet. Left back was actually an issue for City on several occasions this season, and Mendy’s return to health coupled with increased Danilo familiarity (should he stay) will help the cause more than it hurts it.

English backs get better (or get going) — Of players who played a bunch for City, Kyle Walker and John Stones ranked ninth and 13th according to WhoScored and ninth and 11th on Squawka in terms of individual performances. Walker’s numbers were his worst in three seasons, understandably given his comfort at Spurs and a new system, while Stones has been stagnant for both Everton and City since his breakout first two seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Still just 23, he needs to improve to be a part of a top Premier League defense.

More consistency from the right wing — Raheem Sterling can line up on any part of an attack trident, even getting some center forward time, but the league needs to look out if he can continue to improve his service from the right side. Right now, teams focus heavily on Leroy Sane on the left, where Guardiola looks to set up shop more often than not. That’s opened things up for Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, and David Silva… now Sterling needs to do the same for Sane, who could have an unbelievable run with a little more space.

Center forward insurance — Sergio Aguero was devastating at forward despite a car accident and knee injury restricting his season so far to 25 matches (21 goals and six assists there is pretty good, huh?). He’s also 29 years old.

Recently-minted 21-year-old striker Gabriel Jesus has 10 league goals this season, but only two since netting eight times in his first 11 matches. Olarenwaju Kayode and Marlos Moreno won’t be the answer in returning from loan spells, and Lukas Nmecha isn’t quite ready to be a reliable part of the club.

Who are Pep’s second and third strike options next year? At least one is probably coming from outside the Man City stable.

Who has improved the most under Guardiola at Man City?

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Which three players have benefited the most from Pep Guardiola‘s guidance this season?

We won’t take the cheap way out and ride young players who looked set for breakout campaigns for any manager — Looking at you, Leroy Sane — though certainly Guardiola has played major roles in their development.

MORE: Ranking each Man City player out of 10
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MORE: The Opta numbers behind the title

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There are a few to monitor moving forward as the reach a second or third season in Guardiola’s system. Consider Kyle Walker and John Stones, English players who have had fits and starts to life in sky blue.

— Sergio Aguero — Follow us here. Yes, Aguero has long been one of the most prolific strikers in the world, but it’d be short-sighted to forget that Guardiola was talking up how much better the Argentine could be inside of his system (and was even rumored for a transfer away from City during Pep’s first season). At 29 years old, Aguero is in the midst of his best PL scoring campaign in terms of rate — 21 goals in 25 matches — and his production in all comps is his best since the 2014-15 season. Again, he’s 29 and supposed to be getting less done.

— Fernandinho — Unheralded on City’s lightning unit and derided by opponents as a hatchet man, the Brazilian is in the midst of his best season in the Premier League since his debut campaign in 2013-14. He’s currently completing more than 90 percent of his passes for the first time in his career, and owning the air with 2.7 aerials won per game (also tops for his career). His clearances are on the rise as well.

Raheem Sterling — There is question as to whether the youngster will ever be a truly elite finisher, but his electric skill set was so much more than pace this season. Sterling’s positional awareness and even his long-suffering second touch improved as Guardiola coaxed 17 goals and eight assists out of the 23-year-old. Sterling has 10 more goals and two more assists than any of his previous four PL campaigns.

BONUS: David Silva is having an incredible campaign, but it’s hard to say one of the best attackers in club and possibly country history is improving. What Pep has done, however, is supplied a system meant to open up the field for players of Silva’s ilk. It’s worked: Silva has equaled his second-best goal production numbers since 2011-12.