Lionel Messi led Argentina to the Copa America semi-finals thanks to another masterful performance against Ecuador at the Estadio Olimpico Pedro Ludovico.

Messi created two goals and scored a stunner at stoppage time to bring the Albiceleste just one step away from the esteemed South American competition’s final.

Lionel Scaloni’s men dominated throughout the encounter, especially in the first half where they created a raft of goalscoring opportunities.

The Argentines came close to opening the scoring on 14 minutes when Lautaro Martinez got the ball inside the box and flicked it over Hernan Galindez before producing a volley that was blocked by Robert Arboleda.

Then Messi picked up a horrendous loose ball by El Tri’s defence and failed to beat Galindez one on one as his effort rattled the left-hand post after 23 minutes.

But Argentina finally got the goal five minutes before half-time when Galindez clashed with Nicolas Gonzalez on the edge of the box and that allowed Messi to set Rodrigo de Paul up in front of open goal.

Gonzalez then failed to beat the Ecuador goalkeeper twice from close range, first with a header and then with a shot that forced a couple of incredible saves, after 45 minutes.

Gustavo Alfaro’s men had a couple of chances to get on the score sheet as well.

First with Enner Valencia and Angel Mena who failed to get a touch in front of open goal following a crisp cross from the left in the 38th minute.

Then Valencia failed to equalise when Mena crossed him the ball from the right flank as his poor header went out for a goal kick.

Argentina sealed qualification in the second half when Piero Hincapie lost the ball at the back before Messi set Martinez up in front of Galindez and the Inter Milan star didn’t miss on 84 minutes.

The Albiceleste thought they would then score from the penalty spot when the referee believed Hincapie brought Angel Di Maria down inside the box.

However, VAR showed that the challenge took place at the edge of the area and thus the defender was sent off before the official awarded Argentina a free-kick.

That is when Messi fired a stunning curling shot and sent the ball to Galindez’s top left corner in the third minute of stoppage time to seal another triumph for Scaloni’s side.

Argentina are now set to face Colombia in the semi-finals next week after Reinaldo Rueda’s men eliminated Uruguay on penalties.

That’s all from us here in Goiania, have a lovely rest of the night!


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