Re­demp­tion for Tevez as Ar­gentina down Colom­bia

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Car­los Tevez fired Ar­gentina into the semi­fi­nals of the Copa Amer­ica here Fri­day, scor­ing the decisive spot-kick as the tour­na­ment fa­vorites de­feated Colom­bia 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out.

Tevez, who missed the cru­cial penalty when Ar­gentina went out in a shoot-out at the 2011 tour­na­ment, rammed homed the win­ning spot-kick af­ter Colom­bia’s Jei­son Murillo had blazed over the bar.

The 31-year-old, who came on as a sec­ond half sub­sti­tute, pro­vided the dra­matic fi­nal twist to a shoot-out which saw Lu­cas Biglia and Mar­cos Rojo both miss kicks for Ar­gentina that would have sealed vic­tory af­ter reg­u­la­tion time fin­ished locked at 0-0.

Ar­gentina’s win puts them into a semi­fi­nal against the win­ner of Satur­day’s quar­ter­fi­nal be­tween Brazil and Paraguay.

Tevez ad­mit­ted his con­tri­bu­tion to vic­tory — four years af­ter his night­mare miss sealed Ar­gentina’s elim­i­na­tion from the 2011 tour­na­ment on home soil — was sweet.

“In soc­cer there’s al­ways a sec­ond chance,” said Tevez, who ear­lier Fri­day sealed his move back boy­hood club Boca Ju­niors in Buenos Aires.

“But tonight is not about me, it’s about my team-mates. My team-mates won this match and I’m very proud of them, and I’m proud to be part of this squad.”

Tevez, who spent three long years frozen out of Ar­gentina’s na­tional team be­fore re­turn­ing af­ter the 2014 World Cup, said he was happy with his non-start­ing role in the Al­bice­leste.

“I en­joy play­ing, the team is play­ing well and I just have to wait for my chance,” Tevez said.

Ar­gentina coach Ger­ardo Martino ad­mit­ted that he had de­lib­er­ately omit­ted Tevez from his list of five des­ig­nated penalty tak­ers for the shoot-out in or­der to ease pres­sure on the for­mer Manch­ester City striker.

“I didn’t put Tevez among the top five be­cause the last time he shot, Ar­gentina went out. We wanted to avoid that,” Martino re­vealed.

De­feat was cruel on Colom­bia goal­keeper David Ospina, who had sin­gle-hand­edly kept his side in the con­test with a se­ries of su­perb saves dur­ing 90 min­utes to frus­trate the tour­na­ment fa­vorites.

Ar­gentina had ear­lier dom­i­nated a one-sided first half which at times threat­ened to spi­ral out of con­trol with both sides com­mit­ting a se­ries of nig­gly fouls that went un­pun­ished by Mex­i­can ref­eree Roberto Gar­cia.

Ar­gentina midfielder Javier Pa­s­tore was the first to threaten, touch­ing on a low cross from An­gel Di Maria that was cleared at the near post by the Colom­bian cover af­ter only seven min­utes.

Three min­utes later cap­tain Lionel Messi swept for­ward from half­way and re­leased Di Maria in space only for the Manch­ester United striker to shoot tamely at Ospina.

Colom­bia star James Ro­driguez be­came the first of six play­ers to re­ceive a cau­tion in the open­ing 45 min­utes when he was booked for dis­sent.

By half time three more Colom­bians — San­ti­ago Arias, Alexan­der Me­jia and Juan Cuadrado — had earned yel­low cards.

For Ar­gentina, both Javier Mascher­ano and Ser­gio Aguero were booked.

The high­light of the half was an in­cred­i­ble dou­ble save by Ospina in the 26th minute.

Ospina, whose fu­ture at Ar­se­nal is now un­cer­tain fol­low­ing the club’s sign­ing of Petr Cech this week, re­minded Gun­ners man­ager Arsene Wenger of his abil­ity to thwart Aguero and Messi in quick suc­ces­sion.

A low cross from the right from Pa­s­tore picked out Aguero whose shot was saved by Ospina’s legs.

Messi seemed cer­tain to score from the re­bound as the ball looped into his path but Ospina some­how re­cov­ered in time to parry the Ar­gentina cap­tain’s header over the bar.

Ospina saved Colom­bia again with another re­mark­able div­ing save to tip Ni­co­las Ota­mendi’s shot onto the post in the 80th minute.

But Ospina was un­able to re­pro­duce his hero­ics in the shootout as Messi, Eze­quiel Garay, Ever Banega, Eze­quiel Lavezzi all drilled in their first four penal­ties.

Luis Muriel’s miss for Colom­bia gave Biglia the chance to clinch it but the Lazio de­fender shot wide.

The next three penal­ties were all missed, leav­ing Tevez to ri­fle in the win­ner.

AP

(Top) Ar­gentina’s Car­los Tevez, left, scores the win­ning goal past Colom­bia goal­keeper David Ospina dur­ing a penalty shoot out at the end of a Copa Amer­ica quar­ter­fi­nal soc­cer match against Colom­bia at the Sausal­ito Sta­dium in Vina del Mar, Chile on Fri­day, June 26. (Above) Ar­gentina goal­keeper Ser­gio Romero stops a penalty kick shot by Colom­bia’s Juan Camilo Zu­niga dur­ing the penalty shootout of a Copa Amer­ica quar­ter­fi­nal soc­cer match at the Sausal­ito Sta­dium in Vina del Mar, Chile on Fri­day.

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