Copa America 2024: Argentina 1-1 (4-2 On Penalties) – Emiliano Martinez Saves Lionel Messi’s Blushes In Hard-Fought Quarter-Final Clash

Martinez Saves Messi In Copa America Clash
Martinez Saves Messi In Copa America Clash

In a game featuring Lionel Messi, it is difficult to imagine anyone else stealing the spotlight. Even on his bad days, he manages to produce a few moments of magic, leaving the opposition on the floor. Unfortunately, Argentina and their supporters were not treated to Messi’s unabashed genius in Thursday’s (July 4) Copa America 2024 quarter-final clash against Ecuador. In fact, it was one of Messi’s worst displays in an Argentina shirt. But thankfully, the Inter Miami star had his team, and specifically Emiliano Martinez, picking up the pieces. Courtesy of Martinez’s heroics under the crossbar, Argentina claimed a 4-2 victory on penalties after Ecuador held them to a 1-1 draw in regulation time.

Argentina Fail To Best Ecuador In 90 Minutes

Reigning champions Argentina were heavy favorites to proceed to the semi-finals, as they had underdogs Ecuador standing in their way. However, for the majority of the match, Ecuador looked like the more dominant force, creating a slew of opportunities to find the back of the net.

Jeremy Sarmiento drew an excellent save out of Martinez in the 15th minute, with the Aston Villa stopper reacting superbly to deny the attacker from close range. The following minute, Angelo Preciado skied a goalscoring opportunity from inside the area.

Having been under the cosh for the first 30 minutes, Argentina made use of a corner kick to put themselves in front. In the 35th minute, Messi delivered the ball at the near post, which Alexis Mac Allister nodded toward the far post. Argentine center-back Lisandro Martinez attacked the ball with ferocity, heading it into the back of the net.

Ecuador had a glorious opportunity to equalize from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute. But designated penalty-taker Enner Valencia rattled the left-hand post with his effort. Piero Hincapie sent the rebound into the side netting.

The underdogs, however, did equalize before the final whistle, with Kevin Rodriguez dispatching a thumping injury-time header to level the score at 1-1. Since Copa America 2024 does not have extra time (except for the final), the game went straight to penalties.

Lisandro Martinez Mask Lionel Messi’s Blunder

Argentina captain Messi came out to take the first penalty kick. The Barcelona icon attempted a ‘Panenka’, but miscalculated the power delivery, sending his lob clattering against the crossbar and behind. Fortunately, Argentina had one of the best shootout goalkeepers, Martinez, in their corner. Bubbling with confidence, the 31-year-old took his position, dove to his left, and denied Ecuador’s first kick-taker, Angel Mena.

Julian Alvarez took Argentina’s second kick, curling it into the top right. Then, Martinez worked his magic for the second successive time, denying Alan Minda from the spot and giving his team the lead. Mac Allister, Gonzalo Montiel, and Nicolas Otamendi put away Argentina’s next three penalty kicks to seal a 4-2 victory.

After the game, Martinez said he was in no mood to go home this early, adding his team deserved to be in the semi-finals.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup Golden Glove winner said (via The Guardian):

I wasn’t ready to go home. This team deserved to advance. They complicated us a lot. They played a great match, very physical. We knew they were one of the top rivals in Copa América.”

Having clinched a hard-fought victory, Messi and Co. will hope for a more commanding display when they meet Venezuela or Canada in the semi-finals.

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