In the Group D fixtures for the day, Argentina, bolstered by a second half hattrick from Lionel Messi, sealed their progress into the knockout rounds with an authoritative win over Panama. Meanwhile, Chile required a controversial last minute penalty to overcome Bolivia.
With a win over Bolivia in the opening game, Panama were joint top with Argentina going into Friday’s games in Group D. Having lost to Tata Martino’s men in the opening games, defending champions Chile needed a win going into the game against Bolivia at Massachusetts to extend their run in the competition. Meanwhile, a dominant Argentina had the opportunity to secure progress to the knockout rounds with a victory over Panama.
Chile 2-1 Bolivia
A controversial 100th minute penalty gave Chile a 2-1 win over Bolivia as Juan Antonia Pizzi’s side reignited the defence of their Copa America title with victory over their neighbours. In a first half that was dominated by the Chileans in terms of possession, Bolivia managed to hold their line and fend off attacks from the defending champions to stay in with a chance of forcing a first victory in seven games. However, barely a minute into the second half, Arturo Vidal completed a delightful move initiated by him to put Chile ahead.
The Bayern Munich star released Mauricio Pinilla into the Bolivian box, with the latter sending the ball straight back into the path of Vidal, who finished it to score his first international goal outside of the South American continent.
However, a peach of a free-kick from Jhasmani Campos 15 minutes later levelled the match, forcing Chile to search for another goal past a resolute Bolivian defence on the night. Campos, who was a second-half substitute, struck his first goal in three years for the national side as he kept alive his team’s slim hopes of progressing into the knockouts.
But just as Bolivia looked to have taken a share of the spoils, the assistant referee called a controversial handball in the box to award a penalty against Luis Gutierrez in the eighth minute of stoppage time, and Vidal made no mistake from the spot as he dispatched the winner for the defending champions in the 100th minute.
The defeat sent Julio Cesar Baldivieso’s side packing out of the Copa America and the manner of the defeat added salt to Bolivia’s wounds. Luck clearly wasn’t on the side of Bolivia on the night, who even had a big chance early on in the second half denied by another harsh call for offside. Yasmani Duk seemed to have been onside when he was put through on goal against Claudio Bravo, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag as he surged forward.
Argentina 5-0 Panama
Both sides went into the match on the back of victories in their opening games. So it was the matter of which team would secure progress to the knockout rounds first as the South American giants locked horns with their Central American counterparts at Soldier Field, Illinois. The Albiceleste, boasting a a galaxy of stars and talent in their squad, went ahead in just the 7th minute through a Nicolas Otamend header.
To make matters worse, Panama were reduced to 10 men as the game approached the half-hour mark when Anibal Godoy was booked for a second time for a foul on Javier Pastore. Despite being down to 10 men, the attacking resolve of the Panama side saw them fight for an equalizer in a bid to move above Chile, who were level with them on 3 points.
There were chances on offer for both teams as the Albiceleste began to exert their dominance over their opponents, utilising the advantage of an extra man. Lionel Messi, who was cleared by Gerardo Martino to feature today, came on as a substitute in the 60th minute for Augusto Fernandez as the Albiceleste fought to break Panama’s resistance.
And with 67 minutes on the clock, Lionel Messi provided that decisive 2nd goal for Argentina after a deflection off a clearance from Panama fell kindly for the Barcelona forward, who then slotted the ball past Jaime Penedo in goal. That strike appeared to open the floodgates as Argentina eventually went on to score three more towards the end of the game.
The first was a brilliant free-kick from Messi as he curled the ball into the near post away from the goalkeeper’s reach to make it 3-0 on the night. Another routine move from the Albiceleste completed by Messi saw the five-time Ballon D’Or winner snatch a second-half hat-trick as they began to establish their dominance on a tired and beaten Panama side. His goalscoring exploits brought him one closer to Argentina’s all-time record of 56 held by Gabriel Batistuta.
In the 90th minute, substitute Sergio Aguero made it 5-0, as he slotted the ball in off a Messi assist to complete the formalities for the evening. It was a show of class and authority in that second half led by Messi and Argentina as they continue their charge once more in pursuit of an international honour that has eluded them since 1993.