Messi's set-piece goal cannot set up victory

Argentina's Lionel Messi vying for the ball with Chile's Charles Aranguiz (left) and Guillermo Maripan at the Nilton Santos Stadium. The Barcelona forward scored his 73rd international goal in the 1-1 draw.
Argentina's Lionel Messi vying for the ball with Chile's Charles Aranguiz (left) and Guillermo Maripan at the Nilton Santos Stadium. The Barcelona forward scored his 73rd international goal in the 1-1 draw.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RIO DE JANEIRO • Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored a stunning free kick but Chile hit back to earn a 1-1 draw in the Copa America on Monday.

The team's talisman gave the dominant Argentines a deserved first-half lead but Eduardo Vargas equalised for Chile in the second half, heading home the rebound after goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez had saved Arturo Vidal's penalty.

Despite Argentina's dominance, Messi lamented that "we weren't calm, we didn't have control of the ball". His coach Lionel Scaloni saw things differently, though.

"We deserved to win but in the end, we drew. In any case, it's only the start of a very tough tournament," he said.

Before the Group A game started at the Nilton Santos Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, there was a light and effects tribute to Argentina legend Diego Maradona, who died from a heart attack in November aged 60, although the ground was empty due to coronavirus restrictions.

Argentina had plenty of chances, but Lautaro Martinez, Nicolas Gonzalez and Messi, who despite opening the scoring with a 25-metre curler, were not at their clinical best as they went into the break only 1-0 up.

Still, Scaloni claimed it was just an off night for his side and he was confident they would find their scoring boots ahead of their next game against Uruguay on Friday.

"I would be worried if the team wasn't creating chances," he said.

"The important thing is we are, we're getting lots of players in the box. And it will go in."

Chile started the second half with more intent and Vidal was caught by Nicolas Tagliafico in the box as he lined up his shot.

The Inter Milan midfielder stepped up to take the penalty and while Martinez tipped his effort onto the bar, Vargas was quickest to the ball to grab the equaliser.

Scaloni's men were on the front foot for the rest of the match but they could not find the second goal and Gonzalez in particular had a game to forget. The Stuttgart forward later apologised, admitting that "today, I have failed a lot".

Chile were delighted with their smash-and-grab display, with coach Martin Lasarte saying: "This team didn't want to be beaten, even though they didn't play well. The players are defiant."

In the other Group A game, Angel Romero scored twice as Paraguay bounced back to beat 10-man Bolivia 3-1 in Goiania to go top of the standings.

Brazil's health ministry issued a statement on Monday saying 31 members of the playing delegations, including players and staff, tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, without giving further details.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2021, with the headline 'Messi's set-piece goal cannot set up victory'. Subscribe