Messi and Mascherano edge closer to quarter-finals with narrow win over Uruguay (1-0)

Messi and Mascherano edge closer to quarter-finals with narrow win over Uruguay (1-0)

Argentina moves a step nearer last eight in Copa América thanks to second half strike from 'Kun' Agüero Both Barça players feature for all 90 minutes in 'Derbi de la Plata' victory in Group B

Argentina edged closer to the quarter-finals of the Copa América with a nervous 1-0 win over Uruguay in La Serena, Chile. A goal from Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero ten minutes into the second half was enough to give the albiceleste all three points in the Group B clash against their local rivals with Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano playing all 90 minutes. The victory serves to restore confidence to a team that were criticised heavily in the press following the 2-2 draw with Paraguay in their opening game. Now only Jamaica, still without a point following their 1-0 defeat earlier in the day against Paraguay, stand between Argentina and a place in the last eight. For their part, Uruguay still have work to do also to reach the quarter-finals as they face Ricardo Gareca's team in their final fixture of the group phase.

Two changes to side

Argentina coach and former blaugrana boss Gerardo‘Tata’ Martino made two changes to the team that drew 2-2 in their opening fixture of Group B against Paraguay. At the back Pablo Zabaleta came in to replace Roncaglia and in midfield Lucas Biglia was drafted in with Éver Banega dropped to the bench. Holders Uruguay came into the ‘derbi de la Plata’ against their neighbours having beaten Jamaica 1-0 in their opening fixture in the group. Argentina pinned the 2011 Copa América winners back in their own half for the majority of the opening half but clear cut chances were conspicuous by their absence. The best opportunity of the first 45 minutes came courtesy of the skills of captain Leo Messi. ‘La Pulga’ curled in a typical left footed cross that was met by the head of Agüero. Unfortunately for the Manchester City striker, Uruguayan keeper Muslera got down quickly to his left to make an excellent save.

Muslera to the rescue again

It was not the first time in the half that the Galatasaray keeper had saved his team – after just six minutes he had made another good save to deny Di María. Uruguay's best chance of the half fell to Diego Rolán, leading the line for Oscar Tabárez's side in the absence of the suspended Barça striker Luis Suárez. The forward headed just wide on the half hour after a good cross from Pereira. Nerves were evident as Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci dispatched Martino to the stands just a minute later for dissent and then booked Mascherano in the final minute of a half that ended goalless.

City duo combine

After the restart both team continued to struggle before a moment of quality finishing put the Argentines ahead ten minutes into the half. Manchester City pair Zabaleta and Agüero combined to perfection, the striker heading home his club team mate's cross at the near post despite the close attention of defender Giménez. Messi, quiet by his unbelievably high standards, still caused palpitations in the charrúa defence on 68 minutes, racing down the right and whipping in a cross that was scrambled away by Godín before Agüero could get a decisive touch.

Derby tension and chances for Uruguay

Tempers began to boil over as befits a South American derby between two teams who have won the Copa América in 29 of its 43 editions. Argentine defender Rojo was booked for a shove on keeper Muslera as the game entered its final quarter of an hour. The Copa América champions from 2011 threw everything at Argentina in search of an equaliser and Rolán should really have made it 1-1 when he blazed over the bar following Romero's save from Pereira's effort. The Argentina keeper again came to the rescue in the final minute to deny Hernández and to hand Argentina revenge for their quarter-final defeat at the hands of Uruguay in the tournament four years ago.

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