The hero’s return: decisive Emiliano Martinez sends Argentina to the semi-finals of the Copa America (VIDEO)

The hero’s return: decisive Emiliano Martinez sends Argentina to the semi-finals of the Copa America (VIDEO)
The hero’s return: decisive Emiliano Martinez sends Argentina to the semi-finals of the Copa America (VIDEO)

At the end of the suspense, “Dibu” Martinez, deflected two Ecuadorian shots, coming to save an Albiceleste in trouble, after its captain, Lionel Messi, hit the crossbar on a panenka on the first Argentinian attempt.

Borrowed, Argentina took time to get into the game, despite possession largely in their favour, but without managing to create any real chances during the first half hour, against a much sharper Ecuadorians who quickly projected themselves towards Martinez’s goal.

Despite everything, the Argentinians opened the scoring with their first shot on target, Lisandro Martinez deflecting a corner taken by Messi with a header and extended by Alexis Mac Allister (35th).

In a game poor in chances, with only two shots on target from each side, it took until the 61st minute for Ecuador to have a chance to come back into the game, after a penalty was awarded rather generously for a handball by Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodrigo De Paul.

But Ecuadorian star Enner Valencia’s shot, despite wrong-footing the Argentine goalkeeper, went off the post, leaving Argentina one step closer to the semi-final.

Martinez as savior

The Ecuadorian team did not give up, however, and in the 91st minute, Kevin Rodriguez managed to equalize with a header, a goal that was ultimately validated by video assistance despite an Ecuadorian player being offside.

Ecuador could have even reached the semi-finals, which they have not been to since 1993, with a final opportunity at the end of added time, in the 95th minute, but Jordy Caicedo’s header ultimately missed the target.

Back to back, the two teams then headed to penalties, this Copa America not offering extra time before the final and in this little game, despite Messi’s initial miss, Argentina proved to be the stronger.

Following the Argentinian captain’s off-target Panenka, Emiliano Martinez pushed back shots from Angel Mena and Alan Minda one after the other, while Julian Alvarez for Argentina and Alexis Mac Allister saved their attempts.

In the end, no other Argentinian missed a shot, with Benfica Lisbon defender Nicolas Otamendi giving the reigning world champions the decisive lead, four penalties to two.

The Argentines will meet the winner of the match between Venezuela and Canada on Tuesday in the semi-finals, in the suburbs of New York, who face each other on Friday at 8:00 p.m. (01:00 GMT) in Arlington (Texas).

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