SANTA CLARA, United States: A grieving Angel Di Maria was the inspiration as Argentina shrugged off the absence of Lionel Messi to defeat holders Chile 2-1 in their opening Copa America Centenario game here Monday.
Paris Saint-Germain star Di Maria reeling from the death of his grandmother only hours earlier scored one goal and set up another as the two-time world champions avenged their defeat to Chile in last year´s Copa America final.
Di Maria opened the scoring on 51 minutes and emotionally held a T-shirt up to the sky emblazoned with the message: “Grandma, I will miss you so much.”
Moments later Di Maria then set up Argentina´s second for Ever Banega, to complete a man-of-the-match performance.
“I had to play, I wanted to play, my grandmother was so proud that I played for the national team,” Di Maria said during a post-match television interview before breaking down in tears.
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino revealed afterwards Di Maria had kept his loss a secret from him.
“I just learned that five minutes ago that his grandmother died,” Martino said. “He didn´t tell me anything, he was feeling well to play.”
Di Maria´s virtuoso display secured a deserved three points for Argentina, who will now fancy their chances of topping Group D with games against Panama and Bolivia to come.
Chile substitute Jose Fuenzalida scored an injury time consolation for the holders.
Injured Argentina captain Messi watched from the substitutes´ bench at Levi´s Stadium after failing to recover in time from a sore back suffered in a friendly win over Honduras last month.
But the Barcelona superstar´s absence was barely noticeable, with Nicolas Gaitan slotting into Argentina´s attack and making an instant impression, hitting the woodwork with a header after only two minutes.
Courtesy : TheNews