Messi magic takes Argentina to Copa semis

Afp, Goiania

5 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Messi magic takes Argentina to Copa semis

Argentina’s Lionel Messi (left) celebrates with teammate Angel Di Maria after scoring a goal against Ecuador during their Conmebol 2021 Copa America quarter-final match at Olympic Stadium in Goiania, Brazil on Saturday. — AFP PHOTO

Lionel Messi scored one goal and created two others as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 in Goiania on Saturday to reach the Copa America semi-finals.

In Tuesday's last four match, the 14-time winners will play Colombia, who beat Uruguay on penalties earlier in the day.

Messi teed up goals for Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez before firing home an injury time free-kick to cap a stunning individual performance.

The scoreline was harsh on Ecuador, who ended the game with 10 men after Pedro Hicapie's dismissal but had been competitive throughout.

"The truth is it was a very tough match. We knew the difficulty of playing Ecuador, who work hard with players who are fast, physically strong, young," said Messi.

"It was a battle until we managed the (second) goal."

Argentina made a bright start and Martinez almost opened the scoring with a moment of brilliance. He chipped the ball over goalkeeper Hernan Galindez and then volleyed goalwards, only for Robert Arboldea to block the ball on the line.

Moments later Martinez had a shot deflected wide and from the resulting corner, German Pezzella volleyed into the side netting.

Carlos Gruezo almost gifted Argentina a goal when his attempted back pass sent Messi clean through with only Galindez to beat, but the six-time Ballon d'Or winner saw his shot cannon back off the post.

Up the other end, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez had to be alert to parry a stunning 20-yard volley by Sebastian Mendez.

Argentina had their own let off seven minutes from half-time when Pervis Estupinan crossed from the left and Enner Valencia's flicked header narrowly evaded the sliding Alan Franco at the back post.

Goalkeeper David Ospina was the hero as Colombia beat Uruguay on penalties in Brasilia.

Ospina saved two spot-kicks in the shoot-out on the day he earned his 112th Colombian cap, moving clear of the previous national record he shared with the iconic Carlos Valderrama.

There was little to report in a drab 0-0 draw over the regulation 90 minutes before the quarter-final tie went straight to penalties.

Ospina saved from Jose Gimenez and Matias Vina while Colombia scored all four of their penalties.

It was a huge disappointment for Uruguay's star forward pair Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, who both converted their spot-kicks but almost certainly have played in their last Copa.


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