Maradona furious at Messi treatment

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The Independent Football

Argentina boss Diego Maradona has claimed Lionel Messi is the target of "scandalous" treatment by opposing players.

Maradona's side secured a quarter-final against Germany after beating Mexico 3-1 at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium.

The Argentina coach brushed aside controversy over their opening goal by Carlos Tevez -a header that was blatantly offside - by claiming referees are equally guilty by not protecting Messi.

Maradona said: "Messi gets kicked around and the referee does not act.

"I have lived that myself 20 years ago, when I was a player when you had three players on you.

"Whenever Messi has the ball everyone is trying to kick his legs, what is being done to Messi is a scandal - they don't even look for the ball they try to kick him.

"I understand the Mexicans' feelings but there is a limit to everything."

Manchester City striker Tevez benefited from a blunder that was so bad it ranked alongside the one that denied Frank Lampard in the England game four hours previously.

The offside rule states there should be two players between the striker and the goal when the ball is played - there was not even one when Lionel Messi's ball found Tevez who headed it into an empty net.

After the replay flashed up on the big screen angry Mexico players surrounded the Italian referee Roberto Rosetti and linesman Stefano Ayroldi but the goal stood as it was too late for the officials to change their mind.

Mexico went into meltdown and a defensive howler by Ricardo Osorio allowed Gonzalo Higuain to make it 2-0.

It was Tevez who sewed the match up in brilliant fashion - and legitimately this time - early in the second half with Mexico left only to savour a stunning reply by Manchester United's new signing Javier Hernandez.

Argentina now face Germany in Cape Town this weekend and Maradona added: "Germany is a different team to Mexico, they are stronger but we will field the right players.

"They played an open game against England and we must take stock of our situation tomorrow and see how we have come out of this match, how the players are feeling and try to put together the right team to showcase our talents against Germany."

Mexico's coach Javier Aguirre said the match officials' mistake had ruined years of hard work.

He said: "We were stronger up until the first goal and then after the mistake the match changed dramatically.

"After the referee gave that offside goal we lost our concentration. Referees and linesmen can take split-second decisions and they can spoil everything and years of hard work."

Aguirre said Mexico's promising young squad would be even better at the next World Cup.

He added: "It's a great generation of young Mexican players and I believe in four years from now they will be at the top.

"It's a matter of maturing - these boys have to grow up. We don't have to start from scratch again.

"I have told the boys: 'Heads up and be proud'."