GOIANIA, Brazil (Reuters) – Lionel Messi scored a free kick and served up two assists as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 on Saturday to set themselves up for a Copa America semi-final in opposition to Colombia.
Messi missed a golden likelihood within the first half however arrange Rodrigo De Paul 5 minutes earlier than half-time after which did the identical for Lautaro Martinez 5 minutes from the tip to offer Argentina a deserved victory.
The Barcelona participant then acquired his second free kick off the match in stoppage time to spherical out a scoreline that was extra convincing than the efficiency.
It was his 76th objective for Argentina, taking him to inside one among Pele’s South American document.
“I’ve all the time stated that particular person prizes are secondary, we’re right here for one thing else,” Messi stated. “Now we have an goal and we’re centered on that.”
“It was a tough match, we all know how troublesome an opponent they are often. The vital factor is we have taken one other step ahead.”
Argentina had been unbeaten in 17 video games coming into the sport and they need to have put the consequence past doubt sooner than they did.
Martinez and German Pezzella each got here shut within the opening 20 minutes and Hernan Galindez made one excellent double save from Nicolas Gonzalez with the rating at 1-0.
Extra surprisingly, Messi missed the most effective likelihood of the sport when he was by means of on the keeper however noticed his shot come again off the publish.
Nevertheless, the diminutive striker made up for it 5 minutes earlier than half-time when, with the Ecuadoran goalkeeper stranded after making a sort out outdoors the field, he fed De Paul, who stroked the ball into the web for his first worldwide objective in 25 appearances.
Messi then arrange Martinez to complete clinically 5 minutes from the tip, earlier than stepping up himself to curve residence a free kick in stoppage time, after Piero Hincapie hauled down Angel Di Maria and was proven a purple card.
Underdogs Ecuador got here into the match and not using a win of their final six video games however they’d probabilities to attain in opposition to a group in search of their first Copa America triumph since 1993.
Enner Valencia specifically will likely be indignant at himself for sending two glancing headers large from shut in through the first 45 minutes.
The consequence means Argentina will face Colombia, who overcame Uruguay on penalties earlier within the day, within the second Copa America semi-final on Tuesday.
Brazil play Peru within the first semi-final 24 hours earlier than.
(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Modifying by Clarence Fernandez)