By Richard Martin
SALVADOR, Brazil (Reuters) – Roger Martinez scored an outstanding goal as Colombia beat Argentina 2-0 in a Copa America Group B opener on Saturday that burst into life after a sluggish start.
Just as Colombia looked like being overwhelmed by a dangerous-looking Argentina side, substitute Martinez controlled a cross-field ball on the left wing before cutting across the area and smashing it into the far top corner.
The stunning strike came in the 71st minute and Martinez’s fellow substitute Duvan Zapata made sure Colombia took all the points by pouncing from close range to knock in a cross from Jefferson Lerma 15 minutes later.
Colombia had looked stronger in the first half but Argentina were a different beast when Rodrigo de Paul replaced Angel di Maria immediately after the interval and captain Lionel Messi was able to find space to cause some problems.
Messi wasted the best chance of the game before Martinez’s piledriver broke the deadlock when he skewed a rebound wide from close range, and the Barcelona forward also went on a thrilling solo run into the area but could not get a shot away.
A mass brawl ensued when Messi was cut down by Colombia’s Juan Cuadrado in the second half while Argentina midfielder Leandro Paredes fizzed two shots at goal.
A goal from Lionel Scaloni’s side looked imminent but Colombia’s usual talisman James Rodriguez split their defence with an impressive long pass to Martinez, who came on early in the game after Luis Muriel was forced off injured.
Martinez’s stunning strike floored Argentina and although they came back with a couple more attempts, they never looked like scoring.
Colombia top Group B with three points ahead of Qatar’s meeting with Paraguay on Sunday.
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Nick Mulvenney)