ARGENTINA had hoped to avoid a tough, physical game against Uruguay at the Copa America, but showed they were equal to the task, Lionel Messi said after the hard-fought 1-0 win over their River Plate rivals.
Argentine coach Gerardo Martino was banished from the stands for arguing with match officials in the first half and on several occasions tempers threatened to boil over as players jostled and argued.
“It was a tough match, full of clashes and physical contact,” Messi said. “We showed that we could play that way even though it’s not what we were looking for.
“They set out to play a hard match from the outset. They didn’t want to play much.”
Argentina enjoyed two thirds of the possession and played the more attacking football but needed a brilliant second-half diving header from striker Sergio Aguero to secure the victory.
His teammate Javier Mascherano said the Argentines had improved since their opening Copa America match, when they let slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Paraguay.
“Every day we’re playing better for longer and that’s a good feeling,” he said.
Argentina’s victory leaves them level with Paraguay at the top of Group B with four points each. Defending champions Uruguay have three points ahead of their final group match against Paraguay on Saturday.
“We have Paraguay next and we’ll be playing for a place in the next round,” Uruguayan defender Maxi Pereira said. “But we knew that it would be like this, that this would be a very tough group. But we have three points and we’re still in with a chance.”
Argentina face Jamaica in their final group match, also on Saturday.