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SPORTS | 14-06-2021 21:02

Argentina held 1-1 by Chile in Copa América opener, despite piece of Messi magic

Lionel Messi scored a stunning free-kick for Argentina in their Copa América 2021 opener on Monday, but opponents Chile fought back to earn a 1-1 draw.

Lionel Messi scored a stunning free-kick for Argentina in their Copa América 2021 opener on Monday, but opponents Chile fought back to earn a 1-1 draw.

Messi's magical left foot gave a dominant Albiceleste side a deserved first half lead but Eduardo Vargas equalised in the second half after Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez saved veteran midfielder Arturo Vidal's penalty.

Before the Group B game started in the Nelson Santos stadium in Rio de Janeiro, there was a tribute to Diego Maradona, although the ground was empty due to coronavirus restrictions.

The first chance fell to Messi on eight minutes as Leandro Paredes picked out Nicolas Tagliafico on the left and the full-back nodded the ball down for his captain, who sent a volley wide.

Minutes later, Giovani Lo Celso crossed from the left but a sliding Lautaro Martínez could only spoon the ball over the bar from inside the six-yard box.

Argentina were in total command in the first half and Lo Celso picked out Nicolás González to shoot from 20 yards but goalkeeper Claudio Bravo got down well to his right to tip the ball around the post.

From Messi's corner González headed over the bar and moments later he was released by Lo Celos but shot straight at Bravo.

It would be a frustrating night for González.

Argentina got the goal their domination deserved on 33 minutes, and inevitably it was Messi who scored, curling an unstoppable free-kick from 25 yards out just beyond Bravo's dive.

They should have had a second soon afterwards but teed up by Gonzalo Montiel 10 yards out, Martínez screwed his shot horribly wide.

Chile started the second half with more intent and Erick Pulgar played Vargas into the area but his shot on the stretch was saved by Martínez.

However, Vidal stormed in to try to fire home the rebound and was caught by Tagliafico as he shot.

Referee Wilmar Roldan consulted VAR and then awarded a penalty.

Goalkeeper Martínez tipped Vidal's effort onto the crossbar but Vargas was quickest to the ball to head home the equalizer.

Argentina were soon back on the attack but Chile centre-back Gary Medel blocked a volley from González, who later headed over from a Messi free-kick.

Twenty minutes from time, Messi created space in the box but Bravo was down well to save his low shot.

González's night to forget would get worse 10 minutes from time when he ran onto a perfect chipped pass from Messi but headed over from just seven yards out when it looked easier to score.

It was his last involvement as he was substituted before Bravo took the goal kick.

Argentina kept pushing but Messi headed over the bar in injury time as Chile held on for a point.

– TIMES/AFP

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