Colombia’s Martinez and Zapata stun Messi’s Argentina at Copa

Colombia's Yerry Mina, top, heads the ball during a Copa America match against Argentina on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 17 June 2019

Colombia’s Martinez and Zapata stun Messi’s Argentina at Copa

  • Both Argentina and Colombia are trying to end title droughts, with the Argentines winless since the 1993 Copa America
  • Argentina lost the finals of the World Cup in 2014 and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016

SALVADOR, Brazil: James Rodriguez got the best of Lionel Messi in the Copa America, leading Colombia to a 2-0 win over Argentina in their opening game in the South American tournament on Saturday.

Rodriguez set up Roger Martinez’s opening goal in the second half with a high, diagonal pass across the field, and substitute Duván Zapata scored late to seal the victory that allowed Colombia to end a 12-year winless streak against the Argentines.

Messi had missed a chance to put Argentina in front, sending a close-range header off target as his team opened the tournament with a loss for the first time since 1979.

“Our best player was the entire team,” Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz said. “The next match will certainly be more difficult, this is only the beginning.”

Both Argentina and Colombia are trying to end title droughts, with the Argentines winless since the 1993 Copa America and the Colombians without a trophy since the 2001 edition.

Argentina lost the finals of the World Cup in 2014 and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, where it lost both of the latter in penalty shootouts against Chile.

Colombia’s last win over Argentina was in South American qualifying for the World Cup in 2007.

“It had been a long time (without beating Argentina),” Zapata said. “Everyone in Colombia is very happy, but there is still a long way to go in the Copa, we still have important matches ahead.”

Messi and Rodriguez had a mostly quiet match in Salvador, although Rodriguez provided the assist for Martinez’s 71st-minute opener.

The playmaker gained possession inside Colombia’s own half before picking out Martinez with a long pass. The forward brought the ball down on the left flank before cutting into the penalty area and shooting into the far corner of the net.

“We are disappointed because they scored a great goal when we were playing better,” Messi said. “It will take some time to accept this defeat, but we have to take the positives from today and move on to try to win the next match. We still have plenty of chances.”

Argentina’s first loss in a Copa America game in regulation time since 2007 was confirmed in the 86th minute.

Five minutes after entering the match, Zapata converted from Jefferson Lerma’s cross.

Argentina striker Sergio Aguero and Colombia veteran Radamel Falcao also could not do much to help their teams break through their opponents’ defense in a tense opening match in Group B.

“We improved in the second half and created chances,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni, who complained of the bad field conditions at the Arena Fonte Nova. 

“We still have two matches left and if we win them we will certainly advance.”

Earlier Saturday, Peru were held by 10-man Venezuela to a 0-0 draw in Group A, a result that left both teams two points behind host Brazil, which opened with a 3-0 win over Bolivia on Friday in Sao Paulo. Argentina will next play against Paraguay in Belo Horizonte, while Colombia will face Qatar in Sao Paulo.

Paraguay and Qatar meet in the other Group B match on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. 


Title, not invincible tag, the most important goal for Salah

Updated 18 January 2020

Title, not invincible tag, the most important goal for Salah

LONDON: Mohamed Salah says Liverpool’s focus is solely on ending a 30-year wait to win the Premier League title, rather than doing so by going the whole season unbeaten.

Jurgen Klopp’s men have dropped just 2 points in 21 games to set a new record for Europe’s top five leagues of 61 points from a possible 63 to start the campaign.

That has propelled the European champions into a 14-point lead over title holders Manchester City with a game in hand, but Salah insists the Reds are still taking their title challenge one game at a time ahead of Manchester United’s visit to Anfield on Sunday.

“We don’t think about being unbeaten until the end of the season. If we do that, it would be great, but at the end of the day we just want to win the Premier League. That’s the most important thing,” Salah told Premier League Productions.

“Unbeaten or not, it’s not necessary — we want to win the Premier League.”

Liverpool could move a massive 30 points clear of United with victory on Sunday, but the Red Devils are the only side to take points off them this season after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in October.

Salah missed that match through injury and is keen to make up for lost time in the clash between English football’s two most successful sides.

“We need to win, we need to carry on in our way — the way we’ve been doing since the beginning of the season and since last year,” added the Egyptian.

“Of course we know it’s big for the fans, for the city and for us. But at the end of the day, we play the game to win.”