Argentina reaches Copa America semifinals, beats Ecuador 4-2 on penalty kicks after 1-1 draw

HOUSTON — Defending champion Argentina advanced to the Copa America semifinals, beating Ecuador 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw on Thursday night after conceding a tying goal in second-half injury time.

Lionel Messi put Argentina’s first penalty kick off the crossbar but goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez saved Ecuador’s first two attempts in the shootout and Nicolás Otamendi beat Alexander Domínguez with the winning kick.

Liisandro Martínez gave the Albiceleste a 35th-minute lead, but Kevin Rodríguez tied the score in the first minute of second-half stoppage time. Ecuador’s Enner Valencia had put a penalty kick off a post in the 62nd minute after a hand ball by Rodrigo De Paul.

Seeking its third straight major title, Argentina advanced to the semifinals for the fifth straight Copa America and will play Venezuela or Canada on Tuesday at East Rutherford, New Jersey. Argentina is looking to win a record 16th Copa America championship.

With Argentina going first in the shootout, Messi tried a Panenka and hit the crossbar.

Martínez, the goalkeeper in Argentina’s shootout win over France in the 2022 World Cup final, saved shootout kicks by Ángel Mena, diving to his left and batting the ball with his trailing hand, and Alan Minda, diving right and following the save with a short dance.

Julián Álvarez and Alexis Mac Allister converted to put Argentina ahead 2-0, and John Yeboah made Ecuador’s third attempt.

Gonzalo Montiel gave Argentina a 3-1 lead, Jordy Caicedo converted to keep Ecuador alive and Otamendi got the winner, tucking the ball inside the post just past the outstretched arm of Domínguez.

Liisandro Martínez had put Argentina ahead in the 35th minute with a header after Mac Allister headed on Messi’s corner kick. Rodríguez scored when he headed in John Yeboah’s cross.

Under Copa America regulations, the match went straight from the end of regulation to a shootout, without extra time.

Messi, who did not play in Argentina’s last group stage match against Peru due to a leg injury he sustained June 25 against Chile, got a loud ovation when he entered the field 45 minutes before kickoff.


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