Martino: Argentina lost control in Paraguay draw

Paraguay's Marcos Caceres, back, celebrates team-mate Lucas Barrios's late equaliser. Picture: AP Photo
Paraguay's Marcos Caceres, back, celebrates team-mate Lucas Barrios's late equaliser. Picture: AP Photo
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Argentina coach Gerardo Martino was left to rue his side’s mistakes after they conceded a last-minute equaliser to open their Copa America campaign with a disappointing 2-2 draw with Paraguay on Saturday.

Substitute striker Lucas Barrios scored in the 90th-minute to cap Paraguay’s comeback after Argentina had opened a two-goal lead in the first half.

Sergio Aguero opened the scoring for Argentina in the 29th minute after intercepting a bad pass by Paraguayan defender Miguel Samudio, and captain Lionel Messi added to the lead by converting a 36th-minute penalty after Samudio had fouled Angel Di Maria in the box.

Paraguay hit back when Nelson Valdez struck in the 60th minute, and Barrios equalised with a left-footed shot after a long cross into the area. The ball was deflected back toward Barrios and he quickly fired his shot low into the back of the net as Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero could only watch.

Argentina dominated for long spells at the La Portada Stadium in La Serena, Chile and seemed to be heading for a victory, but Paraguay surged forward after scoring their first goal and created several opportunities before equalising through Barrios.

“We had the match under control,” Martino said. “But we made too many mistakes in the second half.”

Argentina, who are hoping to end a 22-year title drought, missed a chance to top Group B along with Uruguay, who had defeated Jamaica 1-0 in Antofagasta earlier on Saturday night.

Aguero put Argentina ahead after Samudio’s backpass to goalkeeper Antony Silva was short, allowing the Manchester City striker a clear path on goal, and he easily rounded the keeper before finding the open net with a right-footed shot.

Messi then converted a penalty with a firm low shot into the corner, scoring his 46th goal in 98 matches with the national team. Paraguayan players complained with Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan, saying Samudio made a clean challenge on Di Maria in the play that prompted the penalty.

Paraguay pressed forward after Valdez scored his goal with a shot over Romero. Valdez nearly equalised in the 71st with a close-range shot that went just wide, and Samudio had his shot stopped by Romero in the 76th.

Paraguay defender Paulo Da Silva believes his country deserved the late draw as he said: “We suffered a lot. During the first half we let them play and that was a mistake.

“We managed to give our best then and we deserve this result.”

Argentina next play Uruguay in La Serena, while Paraguay will face Jamaica in Antofagasta. Both games take place tomorrow.

Meanwhile, defending champions Uruguay beat Jamaica 1-0 after Cristian Rodriguez scored in the 52nd minute in their Group B opener.

Uruguay struggled in attack without Luis Suarez, who is suspended for the tournament for biting Giorgio Chiellini of Italy in last year’s World Cup.

Rodriguez, the best player on the field, scored after Jose Maria Gimenez headed a free-kick in his direction in front of the goal.