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Martinez Saves Messi as Argentina Beats Ecuador on Penalties to Reach Semis

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After a 1-1 draw in regular time, Argentina defeated Ecuador 4-2 on penalties on Thursday to book their place in the Copa America semi-finals. The shootout’s hero was goalie Emi Martinez, who made two vital stops to guarantee the reigning champs advanced.

After Alexis Mac Allister flicked on the ball, Lisandro Martinez headed home his first goal for Argentina in the 35th minute of play to give his team the lead. Argentina had early possession dominance, but Ecuador’s first real opportunity came when Jeremy Sarmiento forced Martinez to make a stop from a tight angle. In the second half, Ecuador applied more pressure and came dangerously close to equalizing when a corner bounced onto Rodrigo De Paul’s hand and resulted in a penalty. The captain and leading scorer for Ecuador, Enner Valencia, attempted a shot that struck the post, and Cristian Romero of Argentina stopped the rebound.

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Ecuador got their equalizer during stoppage time. Except for the final, Copa America knockout games do not include extra time. In the 91st minute, Kevin Rodriguez headed past Martinez after John Yeboah supplied a superb cross, tying the score at 1-1 and forcing penalties.

Messi Played with an Injury

Despite worries about his injury, Lionel Messi started the match and broke the record for most minutes ever played in a tournament. But in the shootout, he struck the crossbar with Argentina’s opening chance. Then, Emi Martinez denied Alan Minda and Angel Mena with two vital stops. With the game-winning penalty, Nicolas Otamendi clinched the victory and lined up a semifinal matchup with either Canada or Venezuela.

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One of the highlights of the game was Martinez’s joyful celebration with the fans after making a save that sent Argentina to the next round.

Argentina will now have to wait until July 9 for the semi-final encounter against the winner of Canada vs. Venezuela.