No Messi, no problem as Argentina down Peru

Argentina shrugged off the injury absence of Lionel Messi to maintain their perfect start at the Copa America on Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Peru in Miami. BSS

Lautaro Martinez scored twice at the Hard Rock Stadium to seal a win that ensured Argentina advance to the quarter-finals as Group A winners.

With Messi sidelined after complaining of a sore right hamstring, and coach Lionel Scaloni serving a one-game suspension, Argentina made nine changes to their starting XI at the Hard Rock Stadium.

But despite the makeshift-looking line-up, Argentina were always in control against a disappointing Peru side who managed just one shot on goal during a one-sided encounter.

Martinez’s first goal came just after half-time. A sublime through ball from Angel Di Maria released the Inter Milan forward, who calmly lifted a deft finish over advancing Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

Argentina had a chance to double their lead in the 72nd minute after Jesus Castillo handled in the area to concede a penalty.

But Leandro Paredes crashed his ensuing spot-kick against the woodwork to leave the score at 1-0.

Martinez then grabbed a second in the 86th minute, latching on to a long pass forward before finishing past Gallese.

Replays indicated Martinez appeared to shove defender Aldo Corzo in the build-up but referee Cesar Ramos waved Peru’s protest and the goal stood.

Argentina will now face the runner-up from Group B in the quarter-finals in Houston next Thursday, most likely either Ecuador or Mexico.

In Saturday’s other Group A game, Canada held 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions Chile to a 0-0 draw in Orlando, which was enough to see the Canadians into the last eight.

Chile needed a victory to leapfrog the Canadians into the knockout rounds but were left with a mountain to climb early in the game when Gabriel Suazo was dismissed for a second yellow card after only 27 minutes.

Canada will play the winners of Group B in the quarter-finals.

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