Lionel Messi hat trick powers Argentina past Panama 5-0

Barcelona star scores three goal within 19 minutes in Copa America Centenario win

Lionel Messi (10) of Argentina celebrates his second goal against Panama during a match in the 2016 Copa America Centenario at Soldier Field on June 10, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

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// — One, two và finally three — contained quite neatly in a span of 19 minutes. A dazzling display for Lionel Messi on a warm Friday night.

Once Argentina put the monster in the game, it was all over for Panama.

Messi scored three second-half goals in his return from a back injury, and Argentina clinched a spot in the knockout round of the Copa America Centenario with a 5-0 victory over an overwhelmed Panama team weakened by a flood of yellow cards.

“Happy, happy lớn be back, to lớn be able to play after resting for some time,” Messi said. “I really wanted lớn play … for the outcome, for the goals. Very happy, to be honest.”

Messi replaced Augusto Fernandez in the 61st minute, drawing a big ovation from a sea of No. 10 Argentina jerseys and the familiar colors of Barcelona, his club team. A few minutes later, the five-time FIFA Player of the Year got right back to lớn work.

First, Roderick Miller’s clearing attempt for Panama went off Gonzalo Higuain’s hands as he went to protect his face và right to Messi, who took a couple dribbles and then beat Jaime Penedo on the ground khổng lồ the goaltender’s right side. Then Messi sent a curling free kick from about 24 yards into the đứng top left corner of the goal in the 78th minute, making it 3-0 & drawing gasps from the crowd of 53,885 at the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

A left-footed chip past Penedo on the goaltender’s right side finished off Messi’s fourth international hat trick, joining friendlies against Switzerland & Brazil in 2012, & Guatemala in 2013. It also ran Messi’s total lớn 53 international goals, just three away from Gabriel Batistuta’s Argentine’s record.

“When Messi got up, I asked the fourth referee, ‘How much time left,’” Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez said. “‘Thirty minutes,’ and we were already spent. Messi is a monster.”

It was quite a show after Messi departed in the second half of a 1-0 victory against Honduras on May 27 with a back & rib injury. He also missed Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Chile in the Copa opener, but manager Gerardo Martino said Thursday he was training with the team & ready to lớn go against Panama.

No kidding.

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Nicolas Otamendi scored on a header off a curving free kick by Angel Di Maria in the seventh minute, & Sergio Aguero made it 5-0 in the 90th minute. Di Maria was examined by doctors after he left with an injury right before halftime, but Martino can afford lớn be cautious with Argentina already through khổng lồ the quarterfinals before its final Group D game Thursday night against Bolivia in Seattle.

“Most of all I think that we need to respond khổng lồ the situation of some players that have yellow cards. … how to make some changes without altering the structure of the team,” Martino said.

Panama can advance khổng lồ the next round with a victory over Chile on Thursday night in Philadelphia, but it will be without key forward Blas Perez, defender Felipe Baloy và midfielders Armando Cooper và Anibal Godoy after the team was whistled for six yellow cards. Midfielder Valentin Pimentel was carried off on a stretcher in the 20th minute.

A rare U.S. Appearance for Messi attracted a mostly blue-and-white-clad crowd that easily cruised past the attendance of 39,642 for the United States’ 4-0 victory against Costa Rica on Tuesday night. The fans chanted “Messi! Messi!” at a couple points in the first half & cheered loudly whenever he was shown on the videoboard.

Two fans stormed the field after the game to try to get to Messi, but each was tackled by security.

“The truth is (I’m) very grateful, especially with the people today that once again treated me spectacularly,” Messi said. “Not just me, but all the team, just lượt thích the first time I came lớn the U.S., so very happy and grateful.”

In between a steady stream of first-half whistles and yellow cards, top-ranked Argentina showed off some of the fancy passing that makes it one of the favorites khổng lồ take home South America’s championship. Otamendi’s well-placed header was enough for a 1-0 lead at the break.

Panama competed hard, but played with 10 men after Godoy received his second yellow in the 31st minute. Chasing Argentina around with one less player got even more daunting when Messi trotted on the field in the second half.

“When Messi came in, things were taken of,” Martino said.


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