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Messi puts on a show for fans as Argentina wins 5-0

Superstar Lionel Messi scored a Hat Trick in Argentina's win over Panama in Copa America Centenario Group D. Messi entered the game in the 61st minute and scored three goals in 26 minutes. (Photo courtesy of Copa America)

Argentina soccer fans got what they came to see. They saw their superstar Lionel Messi enter the game in the second half and lead his team, scoring three goals, in a crushing win over Panama 5-0 in the Copa America Centenario Group D on Friday at Soldier Field Chicago.

The fans chanted for Messi who was not in the stating lineup due to an injury. He did not play in the 2-1 win over Chile on Monday. Following a yellow card to Panama’s Blas Perez, Argentina’s Angel DiMaria launched a free kick toward the Panama net where a diving Nicolas Otamendi headed the ball past goalkeeper Jaime Penedo to give Argentina a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute.

Argentina defense showing signs of unraveling in the 28th minute. But in the 32nd minute, Panama’s Anibal Goday received his second yellow card in the game for punching Nicolas Gaitan. He was ejected from the game leaving Panama with 10 players of the field for the remainder of the game.

The overmatched Panama grew tired quickly against Argentina’s potent offensive attack. Argentina took a one-goal lead into the dressing room at the half. Despite not having Messi on the field, the blue side had the advantage in ball-possession 66 percent to 34.

In the 61st minute, Head Coach Gerardo Martino made the call for No. 10. The crowd erupted as Messi made his way to sideline to enter the game. He subbed in for Augusto Fernandez and promptly electrified the crowd as well as his teammates.

“There was a little bit of pain,” said Messi through an interpreter. “We thought the best time to start to play was this game. It was very intense and a little difficult. The field was hard and the grass was a little too high. We had to win this game for first place and we did it.”

In the 68th minute Panama’s defender Roderick Miller tried to clear the ball just outside the penalty box but the ball bounced off Gonzalo Huguain and fell right to Messi who had a clear look at the Panama net. Messi sent a low shot to the far side to give Argentina the lead 2-0.

None minutes later, on a free kick, Messi sent a 25-yard hooking rocket into the upper right corner of the Panama goal to add to the Argentina lead. He capped off his Hat Trick with a side-step through three Panama defenders and sending the ball past a helpless Penedo.

“This was a result of being tired and making mistakes,” said Panama Head Coach Gomez Bolillo. “It’s tough to beat Argentina without Messi. We made mistakes and against Messi you are going to pay the price.”

Sergio Aguero, who entered the game in the 76th minute, scored to make it 5-0. Argentina heads to Seattle to play Bolivia to close out group play before the knockout round begins.

BOX SCORE

Lineups

Argentina: Sergio Romero (GK), Gabriel Mercado, Angel DiMaria (Erik Lamela 43′), Augusto Fernandez Lionel Messi 61′), Gonzalo Higuain (Sergio Aguero 76′), Ramiro Funes Mori, Javier Mascherano (Capt.), Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Otamendi, Ever Benega, Nicolas Gaitan.

Panama: Jaime Penedo (GK), Roderick Miller, Gabriel Gomez, Blas Perez (Luis Tejada 75′), Armando Cooper (Abdiel Arroyo 76′), Adolfo Machado, Valentin Pimentel (Miguel Camargo 20′), Luis Henriquez, Alberto Quintero, Anibal Godoy, Felipe Baloy (Capt.).

Scoring Summary

Argentina: Otamendi (DiMaria) 7′
Argentina: Messi 68′
Argentina: Messi 78′
Argentina: Messi 87′
Argentina: Aguero 90′

Attendance: 53,885

SCOREBOARD

Wed., June 8
Group B
Ecuador 2-2 Peru
Brazil 7-1 Haiti

Thur., June 9
Group C
Mexico 2-0 Jamaica
Venezuela 1-0 Uruguay

Fri., June 10
Group D
Argentina 5-0 Panama
Chile 2-1 Bolivia

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