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Copa America 2016: Lionel Messi hat-trick inspires Argentina to an easy 5-0 victory over 10-man Panama

Argentina booked their place in the Copa America 2016 quarter-finals thanks to this win

lionel messi vs Panama
Lionel Messi was in fine form for Argentina

A 19-minute hat-trick from Lionel Messi ensured Argentina cruised to a 5-0 victory over 10-man Panama. Although Panama caused some problems in the first half, Lionel Messi’s introduction in the second half proved to be too much for them. 

Argentina manager Tata Martino had promised Lionel Messi would play,however, the Barcelona superstar started off on the bench. Argentina who were heavy favourites against Panama did not let the absence of Messi affect them as they took an early lead in the 7th minute thanks to Nicolas Otamendi’s header from an Angel Di Maria free-kick. Di Maria’s pinpoint delivery from the left was met by an unmarked Otamendi on the far post who nodded in the header to give Albicelesete the lead.

The game got off to a fractious start with tackles flying in left right and centre from the Panama players. Their robust all action style caused Argentina plenty of problems but Panama were dealt a major blow when Godoy was sent off for a second yellow card as early as in the 31st minute. 

Argentina had problems of their own when star player Angel Di Maria went down clutching his calf and hamstring area. Although the crowd chanted for Lionel Messi to replace the Paris Saint-Germain man, Gerardo Martino decided to bring on Erik Lamela instead. Panama bravely held on for the rest of the first half as the first half ended with Argentina leading 1-0.

The second half was always going to be tough for Panama with 10 men, but they started off admirably keeping the Argentina attack at bay for the opening 15 minutes. The underdogs did not let their heads drop and created some tense moments for the Argentina backline.

Lionel Messi finally came on in the 60th minute much to the crowd’s delight and the 5 time Ballon d’Or winner took little time to stamp his class and authority on the game. The little Argentine grabbed his first of the night when some good closing down by the Argentina midfield led the ball to drop to his feet. A clinical finish by the Barcelona superstar got him up and running.

The second Lionel Messi goal was the goal of the game. A 30-yard free-kick was expertly put away by the little maestro. He soon completed his hat-trick thanks to a mazy run which bamboozled the Panama defense in typical Messi fashion. 

However, he was not done yet as he turned provider for the 5th goal sending in an amazing pass which Kun Aguero eventually headed in to make it 5-0. It was quite literally the Lionel Messi show tonight and even though he came on in just the 60th minute, his 19-minute hat-trick ensured that he would be taking home the man of the match award.

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