Washington D.C.: Lionel Messi is one goal off becoming Argentina’s all-time record scorer after helping his country ease into the Copa America semi-finals.
The Barcelona whiz produced yet another sublime display as La Albiceleste thumped Venezuela 4-1 at the Gillette Stadium. Messi’s goal on the hour mark put his side 3-0 up and was the 54th time he has found the back of the net for the national team – equalling the record set by Gabriel Batistuta.
It was also his fourth goal of this year’s Copa America, taking him to the top of the charts despite only playing 74 minutes of the competition before Saturday evening’s clash. Argentina now look forward to a semi-final tie with the United States in Houston on Thursday after the host nation saw off Ecuador. Gonzalo Higuain was also at the double for Argentina but was the beneficiary of some Messi brilliance to put his country ahead inside the opening 10 minutes.
Messi dinked a sublime pass from the touchline into the penalty area for Higuain to expertly steer past goalkeeper Dani Hernandez to open the scoring. Higuain doubled both his and his side’s tally on 28 minutes. He was on hand to collect a wayward pass from Venezuela midfielder Arquimedes Figuera before dropping his shoulder and rounding Hernandez for the finish.
Venezuela did have the chance to get themselves back into the game before the break after Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero brought down Josef Martinez in the box. But from the resulting spot kick, Luis Manuel Seijas was made to look a fool as he attempted to chip the ball down the middle of the goal, only for Romero to stand tall and collect the ball with ease.
Messi’s time to shine came 15 minutes into the second half when Nicolas Gaitan pounced on yet another defensive error to play in the mercurial front man on the six-yard box, who prodded home. West Brom striker Salomon Rondon finally reduced the arrears in the 70th minute with a glancing header. But rampant Argentina completed the rout just 60 seconds later when Erik Lamela finished after Messi’s through ball.