Rio de Janeiro: Argentina defeated Venezuela 2-0 to advance to the semi-finals of the 2019 Copa America, where they will face host nation Brazil.
Friday, Venezuela turned out with a solid performance, but were not up to the task of stopping Argentina, who continue to win despite captain Lionel Messi’s lack of form.
The outcome of the quarter-final sets up yet another edition of the South American classic between five-time World Cup winners Brazil and their main regional rivals, who have won the World Cup twice.
Marcos Acuna dominated the midfield for the Albiceleste and 21-year-old forward Lautaro Martinez generated the energy on attack.
Fresh off a good debut season with Inter Milan, Martinez put Argentina ahead in the 10th minute, scoring off a back-heel pass from Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero, who earlier tested Venezuelan keeper Wuilker Farinez.
Venezuela’s best striker, Salomon Rondon, received no service in the first half and Argentina keeper Franco Armani found himself with little to do.
But the Venezuelans could draw satisfaction from reaching the break behind by only a goal and they were notably better to start the second half.
The improvement was alarming enough for Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni to replace Martinez up front alongside Messi and Aguero with the more experienced Angel di Maria.
And the Albiceleste’s attempts to open up more space for Messi left them vulnerable at the back, where Venezuela’s Ronald Hernandez forced a save from Armani in the 67th minute.
Eight minutes later, Farinez dealt with an Aguero strike, but left the ball to Giovani Lo Celso, for the decisive second goal.