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Andre Penner Messi celebrates with Angel di Maria after scoring Argentina's third in stoppage time.
# Copa America
Messi stars as Argentina set up Copa America semi v Colombia
Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0 overnight while Colombia beat Uruguay on penalties.

LIONEL MESSI SCORED one goal and created two others as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-0  on Saturday to reach the Copa America semi-finals.

The 14-time winners will now play Colombia on Tuesday after Reinaldo Rueda’s side beat Uruguay on penalties earlier in the day.

Messi teed up goals for Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez before firing home an injury time free-kick to cap a stunning individual performance.

The scoreline was harsh on Ecuador, who ended the game with 10 men after Pedro Hincapie’s dismissal but had been competitive throughout.

Argentina took the lead five minutes before the break, with Messi the architect.

First he played in Nicolas Gonzalez on goal but when he was tackled by goalkeeper Hernan Galindez, Messi reacted quickest and teed up De Paul to score.

There was still time before the break for Galindez to make an incredible double save from Gonzalez, before Enner Valencia somehow headed wide from six yards out.

After the break, Enner Valencia remained Ecuador’s most likely route back into the match and the livewire forward’s near post shot hit goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez’s leg before going behind.

Lautaro Martinez finally ended Ecuador’s resistence six minutes from time from Messi’s pass after Hincapie was caught in possession by Angel Di Maria.

And Hincapie completed a miserable few minutes as he was dismissed in injury time after dragging back substitute Di Maria when clean through, with Messi despatching the free-kick.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper David Ospina was the hero as Colombia beat Uruguay on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Ospina saved two spot-kicks in the shoot-out on the day he earned his 112th Colombian cap, moving clear of the previous national record he shared with the iconic Carlos Valderrama.

He dedicated the victory to his civil strife-torn country that would have been one of the twin hosts alongside Argentina before South American football’s governing body Conmebol moved the tournament to Brazil over coronavirus pandemic concerns and social unrest in Colombia.

“We just want to give joy to our country, a country we want to be full of peace, full of people sharing and enjoying, because we have a beautiful country,” said Ospina, 32.

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There was little to report in a drab draw over the regulation 90 minutes before the quarter-final tie went straight to penalties.

Ospina saved from Jose Gimenez and Matias Vina while Colombia scored all four of their penalties.

It was a huge disappointment for Uruguay’s star forward pair Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, who both converted their spot-kicks but almost certainly have played in their last Copa.

On Friday, Brazil beat Chile 1-0 to reach Monday’s semi-final against Peru, who defeated Paraguay 4-3 on penalties after an eventful 3-3 draw that saw both sides finish with 10 men.

© – AFP, 2021

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