Premier League

Player ratings as Emiliano Martinez saves Lionel Messi and Argentina from a shocking upset

Player ratings as Emiliano Martinez saves Lionel Messi and Argentina from a shocking upset

Argentina’s unbeaten run continues at Copa America 2024 after more heroics from Emiliano Martinez in a penalty shootout no one saw coming.

Argentina were the first team to punch their ticket to the Copa America 2024 quarter-finals, comfortably finishing atop of Group A with all nine possible points. Lionel Messi did not play La Albiceleste’s last fixture against Peru after suffering a minor groin injury in the match prior, but the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner recovered in time to get the start tonight alongside Lautaro Martinez. The striker earned his start up top after bagging four goals in the group stage.

How the game unfolded

The game got off to cagey start. Neither side enjoyed long spells of possession and plenty of fouls disrupted the flow of the game for the opening ten minutes. Ecuador settled down first, though, testing Emiliano Martinez with two decent chances created by the speed of Moises Caicedo. Sloppy giveaways prevented Argentina from getting anything going in the final third; La Albiceleste did not register their first shot until 27 minutes into the first half, and it was not even on target.

No matter how disjointed of a start Argentina had, it only takes one moment for Lionel Messi to strike. The captain found Alexis Mac Allister at the near post with a well taken corner, and the Liverpool midfielder flicked it on to an unmarked Lisandro Martinez at the back post for an easy header to go up 1-0 in the 35th minute. As soon as La Albiceleste got on the scoresheet, they dominated the rest of the half, comfortably maintaining possession and controlling the game’s tempo before retreating to the locker room.

Argentina seemed content to sit back and defend in the opening stages of the second half, allowing Ecuador to regain their footing in the match. La Tri’s pressure paid off; they were awarded a penalty in the 62nd minute for a handball against Rodrigo De Paul. Enner Valencia stepped up to take the penalty, and even sent Martinez the wrong way, but he hit the post, keeping Argentina’s lead safe.

The final 30 minutes of the match unfolded without many noteworthy moments or chances for either side. Argentina looked like they had the win until the 91st minute. Nico Gonzalez went down in his own half, but Ecuador continued forward, taking a quick free kick. John Yeboah played a left-footed cross into the box that found the head of Kevin Rodriguez for the late game equalizer.

Without extra time, the match went straight to a penalty shootout. Messi…

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