Video: Full highlights of Messi scoring 19 minute hat-trick as Argentina thrash Panama 5-0
Lionel Messi scored a fantastic 19-minute hat-trick in the second half to propel Argentina to a 5-0 win over Panama in their Copa America Centenario group stage encounter. The Barcelona maestro reminded everyone of his quality by inspiring a dour Argentina with a second half blitzkrieg to thrash Panama, and cement the Albiceleste’s status as favourites for the 2016 Copa America.
Di Maria has been thriving in the absence of the Messi, and was the creator of the first goal, sending in an accurate free-kick from the left that Nicolas Otamendi headed in at the far post to give Argentina a 7-minute lead, and thus settle the hearts of their fans.
However, the favourites for the Copa America struggled to press home the advantage, despite Panama going down to 10 men, with Gonzalo Higuain struggling to finish a couple of gilt-edged chances. Argentina manager Tata Martino finally introduced Messi in the 60th minute, and by the 87th minute, the score was 4-0 in favour of the Albiceleste.
Messi started off his stunning hat-trick performance with a bit of fortune, as a clearance ricocheted off a Panama defender and fell to Messi in a couple of yards of space on the edge of the box. The Barcelona forward took a touch and produced a neat and powerful finish into the near-post bottom corner despite being closed down quickly, to score his first in the 68th minute.
Messi’s second of the night was an absolute stunner, as the Argentine star stepped up to take a free-kick in the 78th minute and curled an unstoppable strike into the top right corner. Messi completed his hat-trick in the 87th minute with a typically mazy dribbling run that left multiple Panama defenders on their backsides; shrugging at being unable to stop his genius.
Messi completed his contribution with an assist to Aguero in the 89th minute, completing the rout as Argentina defeated Panama 5-0 and confirmed their place in the knockout stages.