The world’s best player Lionel Messi watched the action from the bench as his Argentina team gained a measure of revenge in beating Chile 2 – 1 in the two nations’ Group D opening match at the Copa America, in Santa Clara, a repeat of the 2015 final.
The Argentines were fast starters in the game, seeking revenge for the loss in the Copa final just a year ago at the hands of the same opponents, playing at home in Santiago and Nicolas Gaitan went close with a header on the third minute, hitting the bar.
Four minutes later it was Angel Di Maria who passed a warning to the Chileans after creating some space for himself in the box but his shot, low and well weighted drifted just wide and on the ninth minute Chile had keeper Claudio Bravo to thanks as he came off his line to stop a move that had released Gonzalo Higuain.
On the quarter hour mark Chile managed to string together passes and had a chance of their own but that ended with Javier Mascherano’s nudge on Arturo Vidal in the box and Vidal’s shouts for a penalty could not move the referee.
The frustration was building for Chile and Vidal, having had a penalty shout ignored was booked three minutes later for a foul on Gaitan.
On 21 minutes Di Maria started a counter attack that had the Argentines sprinting down the Chile wings and the PSG man’s cutback released Ever Banega who crossed for Higuain but the Napoli man’s flick met a deflection that sent the ball wide and Marcos Rojo headed the resulting corner wide.
Alexis Sanchez almost stung the Argentines on the 28th minute and against the run of play when he stole in and took a low shot that pulled a great save from Sergio Romero and two minutes later the Arsenal man tested Romero with a free kick that drew a comfortable save.
Chile would end the first half on a low with Mauricio Isla booked for unsporting behavior on the 44th minute but the defending champions were happy to head to the breather on level terms.
Having rode their luck in the first half, it was not so easy in the second half; five minutes after the restart, the champions were trailing after Di Maria picked a pass from Banega inside Chile area and controlled with one touch before firing to Bravo’s near post to open the scores.
Nine minutes later, Chile found themselves two goals down. This time Di Maria returned the favor picking out Banega in the box and his shot took a slight deflection to beat Bravo at the near post yet again.
Higuain found space in on the 67th minute and fired low but a great chance went begging as Bravo stuck out a leg to redirect the ball out.
Substitute Jose Fuenzalida struck a late goal for Chile but that was to be a mere consolation for the champions who start the tournament on the wrong footing.