Tevez holds nerve as Argentina reach Copa America semis

Vina del Mar (Chile), June 27 (IANS) Carlos Tevez scored the decisive spot-kick as Argentina secured a berth in the Copa America semifinals by defeating Colombia 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shootout here.

Colombia’s Luis Muriel and Jason Murillo on Friday sent their attempts flying over the bar before Juan Zuniga’s shot was saved by Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero, reports Xinhua.

Lucas Biglia and Marcos Rojo missed the target for Argentina but Tevez, a 73rd-minute replacement for Sergio Aguero, held his nerve to fire into the bottom corner.

The result at the Estadio Sausalito means Argentina will meet either Brazil or Paraguay on Tuesday for a place in the final.

Argentina dominated the match but were unable to find a way past Colombia keeper David Ospina, who ensured a 0-0 scoreline at the end of normal time.

Colombia’s intention to sit back was evident from the first minute as Argentina enjoyed long periods of possession in the Cafeteros’ half.

Ospina was called into action in the sixth minute, keeping out a Javier Pastore shot after Lionel Messi’s low delivery to the near post.

Argentina were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Aguero was brought down by Santiago Arias with a sliding tackle from behind.

Ospina then produced two stunning reflex saves to deny Aguero and Messi in quick succession.

The Arsenal keeper dived low to parry clear Aguero’s drive and somehow bounced straight back to his feet to palm away Messi’s header from the rebound.

Colombia remained under siege as Cristian Zapata almost deflected Angel Di Maria’s cross into his own net before Ospina again came to the rescue.

Ospina’s inspired form continued in the second half. Just minutes after the restart he charged out of the box to punch the ball clear of an onrushing di Maria after Messi’s deft through ball.

Colombia had a rare chance to score just after the hour but their counterattack was brought undone when James Rodriguez directed a feeble header straight at Romero.

Argentina’s Ever Banega replaced Pastore in the 77th minute and he almost made an immediate impact, sending a rasping shot just over the bar after Messi’s layoff.

Ospina then took the sting out of a Nicolas Otamendi volley before the ball was cleared off the line.

Argentina continued to pressure Colombia’s defence but there was no way through. Murillo made a lunging clearance off the line following Zapata’s fraught attempt to chip the ball backwards with Ospina nowhere in sight.

Messi had one last chance to put his team ahead late in injury time but his downward header from a corner bounced over the bar as the game headed for the penalty shoot-out.

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