Argentina advances to Copa America quarterfinals, beats Chile 1-0 on Martínez 88th-minute goal


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — After nearly 90 minutes of total domination, Lionel Messi and defending champion Argentina advanced to the Copa America quarterfinals after the ball ricocheted in front of the net during a frantic scramble that led to the breakthrough.

Lautaro Martínez scored off the last in a series of rebounds in the 88th minute, lifting the Albiceleste over Chile 1-0 on Tuesday night and into the quarterfinals with a game to spare.

“The ball ended up right at me and I was able to convert it,” said Martínez, who scored the second goal in last week’s opening 2-0 win over Canada.

Messi started the leadup to the goal with a corner kick that was sent sent toward goal with a glancing header by defender Lisandro Martínez. The ball landed in front of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, where Argentina’s Giovani Lo Celso and Chile’s Nicolás Fernández were wrestling. Lo Celso kicked the ball off Bravo and it rebounded to Chile’s Igor Lichnovsky, who tried to poke it wide.

Lautaro Martínez, who entered in the 73rd, calmly one-timed that rebound into the roof of the net on Argentina’s 21st shot. Players stood and waited for three minutes while the goal, Martínez’s 26th for the national team, was confirmed in a video review.

“We deserved the win. It was not an easy match,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said. “We managed to win at the moment least expected.”

Argentina leads Group A with six points, followed by Canada with three, and Chile and Peru with one each. The Albiceleste finish the first round against Peru at Miami Gardens, Florida, on Saturday, when Canada meets Chile in Orlando, Florida.

Playing a day after his 37th birthday, Messi frequently flaunted his talent to spin around and slalom through defenders before an adoring sellout crowd of 81,106 at MetLife Stadium, site of the 2026 World Cup final. Argentina dominated 22-3 in shots and 11-0 in corner kicks. Chile didn’t take its first attempt until the 72nd minute.

Messi came the closest to scoring before Martínez with a 30-yard shot that glanced off the post to Bravo’s left in the 36th minute. Messi had received treatment on the thigh area of his right leg for nearly two minutes after getting kicked by Gabriel Suazo in the 24th.

Nicolás González’s shot from another Messi pass in the 62nd was parried off the crossbar by Bravo.

Argentina outshot Chile 17-0 before Rodrigo Echeverría’s 72nd-minute effort following a turnover was saved by Emiliano Martínez, who blocked the ball while falling after it deflected off Alexis Mac Allister. The goalkeeper then used his right hand to bat another Echeverría shot in the 76th that deflected off a toe of defender Cristian Romero.

“I always have to save one or two every match. And I’m lucky to keep doing it,” Martínez said.

On the 46th anniversary of Argentina’s first World Cup title, the teams returned to the stadium where Chile beat Argentina on penalty kicks in the 2016 Copa America final. That defeat prompted Messi to announce his international retirement only to reverse his decision seven weeks later.

At least 90% of the fans wore Argentina jerseys, most with Messi’s name and No. 10.

There were some small brown patches behind one goal on a grass field installed at a stadium where the usual surface is artificial turf. The surface was narrow, with construction scheduled to allow a wider field for the World Cup.

Bravo, at 41 the oldest player in Copa America history, had eight saves in his 150th international appearance. He and Messi, former Barcelona teammates, spoke with each other while leading their teams onto the field for the national anthems.

“Losing this way leaves a bitter taste,” Bravo said. “We played against a tremendous opponent.”

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