Premier League

Lionel Messi’s penalty horror goes unpunished as Argentina reach Copa America semis

Emiliano Martinez

Lionel Messi missed a penalty in Argentina’s shoot-out victory over Ecuador, with Emiliano Martinez coming to his nation’s rescue.

Argentina looked to be heading to victory after Lisandro Martinez’s first-half opener, but Kevin Rodriguez struck to take the game to penalties, where Messi opened things enough with a Panenka-style effort that came back off the crossbar.

It mattered not, however, as Aston Villa goalkeeper Martinez rose to the occasion once again with two penalty saves to steer Argentina through to the Copa America semi-finals.

“I was very angry, I was convinced that I would take [the penalty] like that,” Messi said after the game. “I had spoken with Dibu [Martinez], with [Geronimo] Rulli, I had taken a couple of penalties. I hadn’t practised, but I spoke with them.

“I had been taking several cross-shots, in fact the goalkeeper dived for a cross-shot, I tried to touch it and it went high.”

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni was keen to protect Messi after his miss.

Emiliano Martinez

Martinez was the star / BSR Agency/GettyImages

“He played like the rest of the team, we are a team,” Scaloni said. :This is a team, if the team played well, he played well. We have never separated the individual from the collective.

Messi was full of praise for Martinez, adding: “He is always there in these moments. He makes himself great. In the penalties we had a lot of faith, even before the match he joked with us about staying calm if there were penalties. He always has that in mind.”

Midfielder Rodrigo de Paul called Martinez “an animal” for his continued success in big moments.

“We have an animal in goal,” De Paul said. “What he is doing is crazy. He deserves it. He loves these colours. He gives us a lot of security and peace of mind.”


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