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Messi scores, hugged by fan in friendly win

BEIJING (AP) – Lionel Messi got hugged by a fan who ran onto the field wearing a number 10 Argentina shirt on Thursday during a 2-0 friendly win over Australia in which the World Cup champion scored the fastest goal of his career.

Messi was standing near the corner flag in the second half when the fan ran onto the field and embraced him. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner appeared to be surprised, but then put his arm around the interloper’s back before security guards quickly moved in.

The fan bolted across the field and high-fived Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez on the other end before doubling back across the grass and tripping. The invader was eventually carried off the field.

Moments later, Messi helped set up the second goal for German Pezzella in the 68th minute at the Worker’s Stadium in Beijing.

Earlier, Messi had scored with almost his first touch, only a week after deciding to leave Paris Saint-Germain for Inter Miami. Emerging to massive cheers from the Chinese fans, many of them wearing the famous blue-and-white national team shirts, Messi scored after one minute, 19 seconds in Argentina’s third game since beating France in the World Cup final in December.

ABOVE & BELOW: Argentina’s Lionel Messi scores a goal past Australia’s Kye Rowles; and watches as security officers pursue a fan during play on the field. PHOTOS: AP

Australia midfielder Mathew Leckie slipped inside his own half, allowing Enzo Fernandez to feed Messi, who stepped around Aiden O’Neill on the edge of the area and curled the ball past the diving Mat Ryan. With 103 international goals, Messi trails only Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (122) and Iran’s Ali Daei (109).

Messi came close again minutes later but Australia soon worked itself into the match, much like it did in the 2-1 loss to Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar. Mitch Duke’s shot was pushed onto the post by Martinez. Messi had another chance before halftime but the 35-year-old forward shot over with only the goalkeeper to beat.

In the second half, Messi again went close, this time from a free kick in the 65th minute. He was then involved in his team’s second goal, passing the ball near the corner flag to Rodrigo De Paul, who crossed for Pezzella to head home.

A short time later, Messi found Julian Alvarez in the area but his shot was pushed past the post by Ryan.

Argentina will next travel to Jakarta to face Indonesia on Monday, while Australia will face England in October as it prepares for the Asian Cup in Qatar in January.