x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Argentina booed off at Copa America after Colombia keep Lionel Messi quiet

Colombia were also guilty of missing several chances in their 0-0 draw with the Copa America hosts and favourites.

Pablo Armero, the Colombia defender, shields the ball safely from the Argentina forward Sergio Aguero. The two teams drew 0-0 in another disappointing match for hosts Argentina.
Pablo Armero, the Colombia defender, shields the ball safely from the Argentina forward Sergio Aguero. The two teams drew 0-0 in another disappointing match for hosts Argentina.

Argentina 0 // Colombia 0

SANTA FE, ARGENTINA // Colombia held the hosts Argentina to a 0-0 draw in a Copa America match riddled with missed chances.

Sergio Romero, the Argentina goalkeeper, made four saves from the Colombia attack when they had only him to beat, earning the man of the match award as coach Sergio Batista's team were booed off the pitch by their own fans at first division Colon's stadium in Santa Fe.

The home side also failed to put away chances while Batista's tactics did not help the heavily marked Lionel Messi, who exerted little influence and even blasted a free-kick over the bar.

The hosts could be pushed into third place in the group if Bolivia, who held the hosts 1-1 in the Group A opener last week in La Plata, beat Costa Rica in Jujuy on Thursday. Colombia beat the Costa Ricans 1-0 last Saturday.

The first chance fell to Argentina when the Manchester City fullback Pablo Zabaleta came in from the right in the eighth minute and beat the goalkeeper Luis Martinez with a low shot that was cleared off the line, denying the hosts a settling early lead.

Ten minutes later, midfielder Esteban Cambiasso crossed from the left and the ball looked on its way in to the top far corner before Martinez tipped it away.

Colombia, launching stinging counter-attacks whenever Argentina lost the ball, should have gone ahead in the 20th minute but were guilty instead of their first glaring miss.

Winger Dayro Moreno crossed low from the left-wing into the unmarked Adrian Ramos but the midfielder contrived to hit the ball over the bar with Romero beaten.

Six minutes later, Ramos leapt onto a poor back pass by Gabriel Milito but was tackled from behind by fellow central defender Nicolas Burdisso.

The Brazilian referee Salvio Fagundes played the advantage as the loose ball ran out left to the unmarked Moreno but he shot into the side netting.

Messi had one of his few potentially telling moments of the match just past the half-hour mark with a superbly weighted through ball to Ezequiel Lavezzi but the winger delayed his shot just enough for Martinez to block.

Colombia, living up to their billing as dark horses, brought two diving saves from Romero in the final three minutes of the half, first from a swerving shot from outside the box by the striker Radamel Falcao and then from Moreno.

Javier Mascherano, the Argentina captain, had a shot saved early in the second half and minutes later the Colombia left back Pablo Armero shot just wide of the far post.

Colombia should have taken the lead in the 67th minute when Argentina were a defender short with Burdisso off getting treatment for a nose bleed and Falcao beat the offside trap with only Romero to beat only for the goalkeeper to parry his shot.

Argentina's forwards were often guilty of getting caught offside while the Colombians ran into space well and Romero again saved the hosts' blushes when he dived to save a late effort from substitute Teo Gutierrez.

The Colombians also had time to lock out Tevez, with the wantaway Manchester City striker having to admit that a win would have been undeserved.

"They were tough opponents - they knew how to mark us - though we knew it would be difficult. All these games are," said Tevez.

"The boos hurt - but we'll haul ourselves out of this," the striker promised.

And the coach Serio Batista had to admit that "things aren't quite going the way we had planned."

In fact the only team which deserved to edge the contest was Colombia, as Mario Yepes observed.

"Colombia played well and had more chances to win it. That much is clear by the fact their keeper was man of the match," said the Milan star.

Colombia striker Falcao said Argentina had lacked depth but warned they could only get better: "They are surely going to improve on what they have served up to date," said the Porto striker.

Argentina's final game is against the Central American invitees Costa Rica, who play Bolivia tomorrow.

It is a chance for Messi, who after the match, local media have been describing as having looked "like an ordinary and disorientated player," to recitfy Argentina's ailing Copa woes and a chance to produce in an Argentina shirt.

It will be of little comfort to the world's best footballer that neither Pele nor Diego Maradona before him won the Copa.