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SPORTS | 05-07-2024 00:26

'Dibu' Martínez recreates penalty heroics for Argentina against Ecuador

Argentina reach Copa America semi-finals thanks to win on penalties over Ecuador after 1-1 draw; Goalkeeper Emiliano 'Dibu' Martínez the hero once again after saving two spot-kicks after Lionel Messi had missed.

Emiliano 'Dibu' Martínez continued his extraordinary run of penalty shoot-out victories with the national team, leading the Albiceleste into the Copa América semi-finals with two spot-kick saves.

World champions Argentina reached the last four of the tournament but needed penalties to get past Ecuador after the game ended 1-1 in 90 minutes.

A Lisandro Martínez header had put world champions Argentina 1-0 up ten minutes before half-time but Kevin Rodríguez headed in a stoppage-time leveller for Ecuador, who had risen to the occasion in front of 69,456 fans at Houston's NRG Stadium.

Messi missed the opening penalty, chipping against the bar, but thanks to heroics from Martínez, Argentina recovered to win the shoot-out 4-2 and progress into the semi-finals where they will face the winner of Friday's match between Venezuela and Canada.

Messi's 'panenka' miss brought back memories of his miss in the shoot-out loss to Chile in the 2016 Copa final but luckily for him goalkeeper Martínez was in the mood to repeat his own past.

He pulled off superb diving saves to deny Ángel Mena and Alan Minda and get his team in front before Nicolás Otamendi slotted home the decisive fourth kick.

Martínez had saved three spot-kicks in a 3–2 penalty shootout victory for Argentina over Colombia in the semi-final of the 2021 Copa América and famously saved two in the World Cup final win against France in Qatar.

Ecuador were left crestfallen after a match in which they had created enough opportunities to have won the game.

Félix Sánchez's team made a bright start, dominating the ball in midfield and stretching the Argentine defence at times.

Moises Caicedo had an early opportunity, latching on to a header from Enner Valencia, but his shot was tame and easily dealt with by Argentina's keeper.

Then Moises Caicedo threaded a clever pass through to the impressive Jeremy Sarmiento but Emiliano Martínez was out quick to save with an outstretched foot and Kendry Paez blasted the loose ball over the bar.

Argentina gradually got a foothold in the game but it was not until the 28th minute that they had their first opening when Enzo Fernández headed wide a Nahuel Molina cross from the right.

Seven minutes later, they had the lead however, Messi driving in a corner which Alexis Mac Allister met at the near post with a flick-on and Lisandro Martínez arrived with a powerful header that Ecuador keeper Alexander Domínguez was unable to keep out.

Fernández soon had a chance to double the lead but fired a left-foot shot wide at the back post and Argentina went in at the break with a single goal lead.

Ecuador were given a lifeline in the 62nd minute when Rodrigo De Paul was ruled to have handled inside the box but Valencia's penalty struck the outside of the post.

But in stoppage time, Ecuador stunned the 15-times Copa champions when Kevin Rodríguez glanced in a header from a John Yeboah cross.

There was a VAR review, looking at whether Jordy Caicedo had interfered in an offside position at the back post but the goal stood.

Moments later Caicedo had a great chance to win the game but he glanced a left-wing cross wide from a great, central position.

That meant the drama of a penalty shoot-out and the chance to upset the defending champions slipt away.

Enter 'El Dibu.'

 

Match details

Copa América United States 2024 – Quarter-finals
Argentina 1 Ecuador 1 (Argentina win 4 - 2 on penalties)

Stadium: NRG Stadium (Houston, Texas)
Referee: Andrés Matonte (Uruguay)

Goals: Argentina – Lisandro Martínez (34); Ecuador – Kevin Rodríguez (90+3)
Penalty shoot-out: Argentina – Lionel Messi (missed), Julián Alvarez (scored), Alexis Mac Allister (scored), Gonzalo Montiel (scored), Niolás Otamendi (scored); Ecuador – Angel Mena (saved), Alan Minda (saved), John Yeboah (scored), Yordy Caicedo (scored).
Missed penalty: Enner Valencia (Ecuador, 61)

Yellow cards: Argentina – Nicolás González (77), Nicolás Tagliafico (81); Ecuador – Enner Valencia (30), Moisés Caicedo (75).

Line-ups:  
Argentina – Emiliano Martínez; Nahuel Molina (Gonzalo Montiel, 90+5), Cristian Romero, Lisandro Martínez (Nicolás Otamendi, 77), Nicolás Tagliafico; Rodrigo de Paul, Enzo Fernández (Giovani Lo Celso, 77), Alexis Mac Allister; Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martínez (Julián Alvarez, 64), Nicolás González. Coach: Lionel Scaloni.
Ecuador – Alexander Domínguez; Ángelo Preciado, Félix Torres, William Pacho, Piero Hincapié; Carlos Gruezo (John Yeboah, 79), Alan Franco (Yordy Caicedo, 86), Moisés Caicedo; Kendry Páez (Alan Minda, 77), Énner Valencia, (Angel Mena, 80), Jeremy Sarmiento (Kevin Rodríguez, 77).  Coach: Félix Sánchez.

 

 

– TIMES/AFP

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