Copa America 2019: Messi rescues Argentina as Paraguay pay penalty

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Lionel Messi salvaged a 1-1 draw for Argentina with a penalty against Paraguay in the Copa America (AFP)

BELO HORIZONTE (Brazil), June 20: A Lionel Messi penalty salvaged a 1-1 draw for Argentina against Paraguay on Wednesday as the two-time world champions once again struggled at the Copa America.
Messi swept in a 57th-minute spot-kick at Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao Stadium to cancel out a first-half opener from Paraguay’s Richard Sanchez.
Argentina also had goalkeeper Franco Armani to thank for a second half penalty save that prevented Paraguay from taking a 2-1 lead in the Group B battle.
The draw left Argentina with one point from two games and on the bottom of the table with one game remaining.
However with the two best third placed teams advancing to the quarter-finals, Argentina can still reach the last eight with a decisive win over Qatar in their final group game.
The South American giants will need to raise their game however to advance any further after another disjointed performance which followed their opening defeat to Colombia on Saturday.
A lacklustre opening saw both sides struggle to generate any sort of attacking momentum, with neither side managing to get a shot on goal until Paraguay striker Derlis Gonzalez’s effort was deflected behind for a corner in the 29th minute.
From the ensuing set-piece, centre-half Junior Alonso scooped a half-chance wide as Argentina escaped.
That flurry of activity spurred Argentina fleetingly at the other end, with Lautaro Martinez winning a free-kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the area after a foul by Paraguay skipper Gustavo Gomez.
Messi however was unable to conjure anything from the free-kick, floating his effort up and over the wall but without the pace to trouble goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez, who gathered comfortably.
In the 37th minute however, Paraguay’s more organised performance got its reward. (AFP)