Argentina claim 3rd spot in Copa with win over Chile despite Messi send-off - GulfToday

Argentina claim 3rd spot in Copa with win over Chile despite Messi send-off

Chile’s Mauricio Isla (left) and Argentina’s Sergio Aguero vie for the ball during their Copa America third-place match on Saturday. Agence France-Presse

Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Chile in the third-place match of the Copa America was overshadowed Lionel Messi’s send-off on Staurday. In a hot-contested match, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi and Chile captain Gary Medel were both given their marching orders eight minutes from half-time after an on-field tussle.

Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala scored the first half goals that ensured victory for Argentina. But the match will be most remembered for the double sending-off and the melee it sparked.

In what seemed an innocuous clash, a frustrated Messi shoved Medel in the back as the center-back shepherded the ball out of play.

A furious Medel responded by chest-bumping Messi twice in an incident that probably merited no more than a a single yellow card for the Chilean.

Incredibly, Paraguayan referee Mario Diaz de Vivar showed the two captains the red card.

Medel in particular reacted even more angrily as players from both sides squared up to each other and the referee, who lost complete control of the situation. It took fully five minutes to calm the situation and get Messi and Medel to leave the field.

At this point, already 2-0 down, Chile were in danger of losing their heads and Erick Pulgar was lucky to receive only a yellow card for a stamp on Leandro Paredes that looked a far worse offence that either Messi’s or Medel’s.

Messi had created the opening goal with a quickly-taken free-kick on 12 minutes, picking out Aguero’s clever diagonal run before the forward rounded goalkeeper Gabriel Arias and passed the ball cooly into the empty goal.

Ten minutes later, Dybala doubled the lead with a cool, dinked finish past the advancing Arias after taking a sumptuous Giovani Lo Celso through ball in his stride. By tha time, Chile had seen influential Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez limp off with a hamstring injury.

Chile were handed a lifeline when Lo Celso was adjudged to have brought down Charles Aranguiz on the edge of the penalty area, with Arturo Vidal slamming home the penalty on 59 minutes.

Aguero came closest to scoring again but his chipped finish hit Arias in the head.

Meanwhile, South American football governing body CONMEBOL hit back at Argentine superstar Messi on Saturday after he accused the body of corruption.

Messi reacted after he was sent-off during Argentina’s 2-1 victory in the third place play-off against Chile earlier in the day.

“It’s unacceptable that as a result of incidents that are a regular part of competition unfounded and untrue accusations have been launched that call into question the integrity of the Copa America,” said CONMEBOL in a statement posted on its social media accounts.

Earlier, Messi was scathing in his attack on CONMEBOL and the competition’s referees after Argentina felt aggrieved for the second match running. He even accused the governing body of favoring hosts Brazil.

“Corruption and the referees are preventing people from enjoying the football and they’re ruining it a bit,” said the global star.

“I think there’s no doubt that Brazil are going to be champions. The Copa is weighted towards Brazil,” he added.

Argentina felt they were denied two clear penalties in their 2-0 defeat to Brazil in the semi-finals, complaining that the referee for that game, Roddy Zambrano, had refused to consult VAR to check the validity of their claims.

Agence France-Presse