COPA AMERICA CENTENARIO ROUNDUP Argentina, Panama take command in Group D By Soccer News Net Staff
ARGENTINA 2, CHILE 1
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- No Messi. No problem.
With Lionel Messi watching from the bench and a Levi’s Stadium crowd chanting his name, Argentina took a 2-1 victory over defending champion Chile in both teams’ Group D opener Monday night.
As it turned out, the Albiceleste did not seem to need Sergio Aguero or Gonzalo Higuain, either, the team displaying plenty of firepower, with Ever Banega and Angel Di Maria combining on the goals in the second half.
Di Maria scored off a Banega assist in the 51st minute, then set up Banega with a similar feed in the 59th minute. And the Argentina defense, backed by Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero held off a Chile attack that was overly dependent on Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal until just before the final whistle.
Messi is expected to make his tournament debut when Argentina meets Panama at Soldier Field in Chicago Friday.
Argentina started strong and Nicolas Gaitan, Messi’s replacement, hit the top of the crossbar off a Di Maria cross in the opening minutes. Gaitan absorbed plenty of punishment in the opening half, Vidal (18th minute) and Mauricio Isla (43rd) cautioned for taking him down.
The game opened up early, Sanchez running into the penalty area on the right, Argentina countering with Di Maria advancing on the left. Di Maria shot wide off a Gaitan advance in the 10th minute, the crowd going into “Messi” chants. A Gonzalo Jara clearance was blocked, but Claudio Bravo advanced to cut off Higuain’s angle.
Then, Higuain had a shot deflected on a counter off a Banega feed, Marcos Rojo heading wide off a corner.
Romero made a diving, one-hand save on a Sanchez open shot from the penalty arc in the 29th minute. Higuain fired high a minute later, but the Argentina attack began struggling, until Di Maria moved into a free role, complementing Banega’s midfield playmaking.
Chile produced a late first-half chance, Sanchez setting up a Jean Beausejour cross, cleared by the Argentina defense.
Chile threatened in the opening minute of the second half, Marcelo Diaz’ drive off a clearance deflected just wide right.
But Argentina then capitalized on Banega’s opportunism. Banega took the ball off Charles Aranguiz, advanced to the penalty arc, and released Di Maria on the left, Di Maria finishing with a shot past Bravo in the 51st minute, dedicating the goal to his grandmother, who died Monday.
Chile rallied as second-half substitute Fabian Orellana sent a half volley directly at Romero in the 58th minute.
A minute later, Di Maria advanced near the penalty arc and laid off to Banega on the left, Banega’s left-footer deflected by Isla past a diving Bravo into the left side of the net.
Argentina continued to attack, Di Maria earning a corner off a counterattack, Aranguiz deflecting Rojo’s header off a corner over the bar.
Di Maria and Gary Medel were cautioned by Uruguayan referee Daniel Fedorczuk after a confrontation in the 65th minute.
A minute later, Higuain broke in on the right, Bravo making a kick save.
Vidal fired directly at Romero a minute later, and Mauricio Pinilla replaced Eduardo Vargas as Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi attempted to ignite the offense.
Argentina had chances to extend the lead after Aguero replaced Higuain in the 74th minute. In the 89th minute, Rojo headed wide off an Aguero cross, and in stoppage time, Erik Lamela fired wide right and had an open shot saved.
Then, substitute Jose Fuenzalida headed in a free kick with La Roja’s final touch of the game.
PANAMA 2, BOLIVIA 1
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Blas Perez scored both Panama goals as the Canaleros took a 2-1 win over Bolivia in the Copa America Centenario Group D opener at Camping World Stadium Monday night.
Perez, a Vancouver Whitecaps forward, converted in the 11th minute and Juan Carlos Arce tied the score for Bolivia in the 54th minute. Panama’s Colombian coach, Hernan Dario Gomez, went to a 3-4-3 formation late in the second half and the three-striker alignment paid off as Perez scored the deciding goal in the 87th minute.
Panama threatened early, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Alberto Quintero and Perez earning free kicks in the opening five minutes. Former Colorado Rapids midfielder Gabriel Torres’ free kick was tipped over the bar in the sixth minute. Armando Cooper volleyed high from close range in the ninth minute. Panama earned a controversial free kick after a clash between Earthquakes midfielder Arturo Godoy and Arce. The Canaleros played the ball short, Quintero crossing for Perez’ sliding finish past Carlos Lampe in the 11th minute.
Bolivia recovered and went on the offensive. Arce one-timed a cross that was saved by Jaime Penedo in the 13th minute. Penedo knocked away a header off a Martin Smedberg-Dalence free kick in the 17th minute. Pedro Azogue’s shot was deflected for a corner by Felipe Baloy in the 27th minute. New York Cosmos’ forward Yasmani Duk earned a free kick in the 31st minute.
Perez continued to threaten, a redirection saved off a Quintero feed in the 27th minute, then breaking in alone on Lampe, Bolivian defenders recovering, in the 31st minute.
Bolivia tied the score as Arce capitalized on a failed clearance by Harold Cummings off a free kick, scoring on a left-foot half volley from point-blank range with Penedo out of the net.
Duk went down in the penalty area after being challenged from behind by Cummings after going in alone off a long clearance in the 59th minute, Costa Rican referee Ricardo Montero allowing play to continue.
Panama went on the offensive in the second half, adding strikers Luis Tejada (56th minute) and Croatia-based Abdiel Arroyo (74th) in place of midfielders Torres and Cooper, plus midfielder Amilcar Enriquez for Cummings (64th minute).
Panama’s ability to penetrate failed for most of the second half, the Canaleros resorting to long distance attempts. Gabriel Gomez fired high (67th), Tejada’s goal was disallowed for offside a minute later, Perez’ drive off a Tejada knock down was saved (70th).
But the Canaleros’ changes began to pay off. Quintero earned a corner off a Cooper feed, his shot knocked away by a diving Lampe in the 74th minute. Lampe then grabbed Baloy’s fallaway header off the corner. In the 85th minute, Gomez’ left-footer off an Adolfo Machado throw-in drew out Lampe, Tejada controlling the shot in front of a diving Lampe, but firing a left-footer high. Two minutes later, Bolivia had a chance to break the deadlock, Arce firing high. Panama took possession and went forward, Perez slamming a shot into an open net after Arroyo broke in on the right of the penalty area, Lampe advancing to cut the angle.