A stunning attacking display from Lionel Messi highlighted a one-sided 2-0 home victory for Argentina in their friendly against Panama on Thursday.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar was nearly moved to tears as his side were serenaded by the raucous El Monumental crowd in the World Cup champions' return to Buenos Aires.
He gave his fans an inspired performance, striking the crossbar with two free kicks before sending another into the top corner to bring up 800 goals in his storied career.
He joined Thiago Almada on the scoresheet after the Atlanta United forward scrambled home one of Messi's crossbar rebounds earlier in the second half.
#SelecciónMayor - #Amistoso— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) March 24, 2023
¡Tenía que llegar tu gol, capitán! pic.twitter.com/UzM49A0Utg
Argentina piled on the pressure right from the first whistle, and their early dominance was almost rewarded when Messi's free kick cannoned off the crossbar in the 17th minute.
Less than 10 minutes later Rodrigo De Paul played a gorgeous ball through to Alexis Mac Allister, but Panama goalkeeper Jose Guerra made himself big and smothered the first-time attempt on the edge of the six-yard box.
Guerra rose the occasion once again in the shadows of half-time, denying a rocket bound for the top corner from Enzo Fernandez's boot to keep his side level through 45 minutes despite trailing 10-1 in the shot count and controlling only 27 per cent of the possession.
The Argentinian onslaught continued in the second half, with a Messi corner kick five minutes after the restart forcing a scrambling save from Guerra as it threatened to curl under the crossbar.
Another Messi direct free kick drew another save from Guerra, and he was there once again to deny Angel Di Maria from the resulting corner in what was shaping up as a Man of the Match performance from the Panama shot-stopper.
But he was denied a clean sheet as the hosts' dominance eventually paid off in the 78th minute, when another Messi free kick hit the crossbar, but this time Almada was in the right spot to force home the rebound for his first goal in an Argentina shirt.
A fourth free kick proved to be the charm for Messi, curling it over the wall and under the bar in the 89th minute to put an exclamation point on a spectacular individual performance.