Copa America 2021: Emiliano Martinez the hero as Argentina through to final

Lionel Messi provided the assist for Lautaro Martinez' opener before Luis Diaz equalized for Colombia; Argentina will play Brazil in the final.

Emiliano Martinez saves three penalties to take Argentina to the final of Copa America 2021; Credit: Twitter/@Argentina

Argentina overcame Colombia 3-2 on penalties to book a place in the final of Copa America 2021 against Brazil. The second semi-final at Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia ended 1-1 in regular time. Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring for Argentina before Luis Diaz converted a half chance to level the score. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez produced three brilliant saves in the penalty shootout to take Argentina through to the final showdown at Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday.

La Albiceleste started the game brightly and inside four minutes, Lionel Messi dribbled past three players to deliver a cross from the right side of the penalty area. But Nicolas Gonzalez’ header went agonisingly wide of the far post. Four minutes after the miss, Giovani Lo Celso picked up Messi inside the penalty box with a precise through ball. The 34-year-old Argentina captain turned back and laid the ball to Martinez. The Inter Milan forward slotted the ball past Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina to take the lead. It was his third goal of the campaign. Meanwhile it was Messi’s fifth assist of the tournament.

End to end action

In response, at the other end, Juan Cuadrado’s shot from Diaz’s low cross forced a save out of the Aston Villa custodian. Nine minutes from break, Wilmar Barrios’ strike from outside the box deflected off Lo Celso before kissing the post and going out. Yerry Mina’s header from the subsequent corner hit the crossbar and went over. Ospina made an unorthodox save before the break to somehow guide Gonzalez’ header over the crossbar from a Messi corner.

After the restart Colombia came out with a bit more intent. Head coach Renaldo Rueda made two changes at the start of second half as Frank Fabra and Yimmi chara came in for William Tesillo and Gustavo Cuellar respectively. And at the hour-mark, a quick free-kick taken from the middle of the park released Diaz on the left side. The FC Porto winger beat German Pezzella to the ball and got inside the penalty area before scoring the equalizer from an acute angle. The 24-year-old was the best player for Colombia on the night. His agility, pace and trickery was causing all sorts of problems for the Argentina defence.

Meanwhile Argentina Boss Lionel Scaloni introduced Angel Di Maria for Gonzalez in the 67th minute. The PSG man got through on goal in the 72nd minute. He beat goalkeeper Ospina outside the penalty area before giving the ball to Martinz inside the box. But Barrios made a goal line block to deny the 23-year-old his second of the night.

10 minutes from time, Di Maria picked up Messi inside the penalty area with a brilliant through ball. But the Barcelona legend’s shot from the left side was denied by the woodwork. Although the rebound fell to Rodrigo De Paul, his attempt was blocked.

Argentina vs Brazil in Copa America final

Messi was on the receiving end of some harsh tackles in the second half and he played with a bloody left foot. As both teams couldn’t be separated in 90 minutes, the match went to penalties. Messi and Juan Cuadrado scored from the spot for either sides before Martinez denied Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona to seal a final showdown with Brazil.  Meanwhile substitute Leandro Paredes and L. Martinez converted their penalties.

Messi was one of the joyous players after the victory as he seeks his first major international title. Meanwhile Argentina are seeking to win their first major title since the Copa America triumph in 1993. Scaloni’s side are now unbeaten in 19 games with their last loss coming against Brazil in the semi-final of 2019 Copa America.




WRITTEN BY
Sreejith C R

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