Buenos Aires: Lionel Messi scored twice and provided an assist as Argentina secured the top spot in their Copa America group with a 4-1 rout of Bolivia here.
Alejandro Gomez was also on target for the second successive match before Erwin Saavedra pulled a goal back for La Verde early in the second half. Lautaro Martinez put the result beyond doubt by coming off the bench to score his first goal of the tournament on Monday, reports Xinhua.
The result extended Argentina’s unbeaten run to 17 matches and they will now turn their attention to next Saturday’s (July 3) quarterfinal clash against Ecuador in Goiania. Bolivia exit the tournament having lost each of their four group matches.
We have been growing as the tournament has progressed, Martinez said after the match. We know our next opponents very well. It’s going to be a tough match but we’re going to prepare as well as we possibly can to give the best account of ourselves.
Argentina took the initiative from the outset in unusually cold weather in Cuiaba, a city in Brazil’s tropical Pantanal wetland region.
Gomez struck in the sixth minute with a left-footed volley after Messi turned nimbly and lifted a perfectly weighted pass into the Sevilla forward’s path.
Messi then converted from the penalty spot after the lively Gomez was brought down by Leonel Justiniano.
Argentina’s captain doubled his personal tally on the stroke of halftime by running onto Sergio Aguero’s lofted pass and deftly chipping his shot over goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.
Bolivia reduced the deficit on the hour mark when Saavedra drilled a first-time finish past Franco Armani following Justiniano’s cross from the right flank.
Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni replaced Aguero with Martinez and the Inter Milan forward scored with his first touch, thumping home a close-range effort after Gonzalo Montiel’s initial shot took a deflection.
Argentina continued to attack, and Bolivia had Lampe to thank for not going further behind. The veteran goalkeeper showed lightning reflexes to twice deny Martinez before also keeping out Messi’s low attempt from a set piece.