Inspired Messi sends Argentina into Copa America semifinals
Goiania (Brazil) July 4 (IANS): Lionel Messi scored a goal and provided two assists as Argentina progressed to the Copa America semifinals with an emphatic 3-0 win over Ecuador here.
The new free agent set up Rodrigo de Paul and Lautaro Martinez before scoring with a sublime free-kick in stoppage time on Saturday, reports Xinhua.
The result at Estadio Olimpico in Goiania means Argentina will face Colombia in Brasilia on July 6, with the winner earning a place in the final at the Maracana stadium on July 10.
Defending champions and tournament hosts Brazil will meet Peru in the other semifinal at Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Stadium on July 5.
Ecuador started the game in a positive fashion and almost took the lead via Enner Valencia’s glancing header, which flew just wide of the target following Pervis Estupinan’s probing cross.
Argentina made them pay moments later when Messi set up De Paul, who took a touch before rifling home his first international goal.
Ecuador began the second half as they did in the first, controlling possession for long periods but struggling to find a spark in the final third.
Argentina were far more clinical and they doubled their lead through Martinez, who Messi supplied after Angel Di Maria dispossessed Piero Hincapie.
Messi capped off a superb individual display by curling in a 93rd-minute free-kick, awarded after Hincapie pulled down di Maria on the edge of the box.