Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Lionel Messi penalty rescues Argentina as Scaloni admits 'we are lucky we are still alive' at 2019 Copa America

Messi converts 57th-minute spot kick as Argentina goalkeeper Armani makes most of reprieve to save Gonzalez penalty in 1-1 draw

Lionel Messi held his nerve to successfully convert from the penalty spot to rescue a point for Argentina against Paraguay as their chances of reaching the quarter-finals of the 2019 Copa America hang by a thread.

Argentina were also indebted to goalkeeper Franco Armani, who saved Derlis Gonzalez's second-half penalty.

The 1-1 draw in Belo Horizonte leaves Argentina bottom of Group B on one point from two games played. Leaders Colombia, on six points, sealed their safe passage to the last eight with a 1-0 win over tournament guests Qatar, while Paraguay sit second on two points after successive draws.

However, with the two best third-placed teams advancing to the quarter-finals, Argentina can still reach the quarter-finals with a decisive win over Qatar in their final group game.

Lionel Scaloni said Argentina "have to win" against the Asian Champions on Sunday, adding that his side "are lucky that we are still alive in this tournament".

"We will take stock of what we did well and what we did not do well and we will make decisions," added Scaloni, who was quick to acknowledge his goalkeeper for keeping Argentina's Copa hopes alive.

"We trust Franco," Scaloni said. "He is our starting goalkeeper. He saved a penalty and kept us alive. I'm glad he had a good performance."

Scaloni admitted his side had not played well and struggled to cope with the shock of conceding the first goal.

"Our first half was not good, we played with desperation at times and we couldn't control the play or create attacks. We had a very clear plan but couldn't execute it as we kept losing the ball," Scaloni said.

"They scored with their first attack and that caused us a lot of uncertainty. For a team like Argentina, which feels like it always has to win, the first blow is hard to take, but we assured the players at half time that it was just one goal."

The disjointed performance at the Mineirao came just three days after a lacklustre effort against Colombia in which Argentina suffered a 2-0 defeat in their opener.

A cagey opening stanza saw very little goalmouth action until a Gonzalez deflection and a Junior Alonso effort from a corner ignited the game at the half-hour mark.

Messi was presented with his first sight at goal after Lautaro Martinez won a free kick in a dangerous position, but the Barcelona forward's shot was easily gathered by Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez.

A swift Paraguay counter-attack was rewarded on 37 minutes. Miguel Almiron showed the trailing Roberto Pereya a clean pair of heels down down the left wing. The Newcastle United midfielder's cross was met by Richard Sanchez, who drilled a low effort beyond the diving Armani.

The Argentine goalkeeper was lucky to stay on the pitch minutes later after racing out of his area to fell Gonzalez with a wild kick, receiving only a yellow card.

Scaloni withdrew the ineffective Rodrigo De Paul for Sergio Aguero at the interval and the livewire Manchester City striker sparked Argentina into life.

Aguero, who was left out of the starting XI after an underwhelming showing against Colombia, picked out Martinez in the area with a neat pull back but his fellow striker could only direct his shot on to the woodwork.

However, a Video Assistant Referee review found that Martinez's shot had struck Ivan Piris' arm before hitting the bar and Brazilian referee Wilson Sampaio pointed to the spot.

Messi, presented with a one-on-one against Fernandez from 12 yards, stroked the ball home for his 68th Argentina goal in 132 games.

The drama did not end there though. Armani, who could count himself lucky to still be on the pitch, guessed the right way to parry Gonzalez's 62nd-minute penalty after the Paraguay striker had been hacked down in the area by Nicolas Otamendi.

Updated: June 20, 2019 08:51 AM

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