Ever Banega Angel Di Maria Argentina
Ever Banega and Angel Di Maria were the two outstanding players of the Copa America game between Argentina and ChileReuters

Angel Di Maria stepped up in the absence of Lionel Messi and Argentina picked up an impressive 2-0 win over the huffing-and-puffing-but-not-quite-able-to-blow-the-house-down Chile. This Copa America Centenario match, between the two strongest teams in Group D, started brilliantly, before Argentina took control with two quick goals in the second half.

Di Maria was the one that Argentina would have looked up to after it became clear Messi would not be fit enough to start the game, and the Argentina man came to the fore, scoring the opener and setting up Ever Banega's second goal to give his team a 2-1 win and control of Group D.

Considering this was a repeat of the Copa America 2015 final, much was expected from both teams, and they did not disappoint. Both Argentina and Chile started this game in Santa Clara clearly keen to make an early impact. Chile's high press was quite evident from the beginning, with Argentina also putting plenty of pressure on the Chile players, every time they had possession of the ball.

The first chance came Argentina's way, in the opening minutes, as Nicolas Gaitan, Messi's replacement in the starting XI, saw a header, off a cross from the left, hit the crossbar. Most of Argentina's chances came down the left, with Di Maria fizzing a cross across goal and then seeing a shot from an angle just creep past the far post.

Gonzalo Higuain, preferred to Sergio Aguero up front, also had an opportunity to make it 1-0 in the first 45, but his flick off a low cross from Banega, after some brilliant work from Di Maria, could not quite find its mark.

Chile, at the other end, were being hounded by the Argentina defenders every time they breached enemy territory, with Alexis Sanchez, in particular, quite tightly marked. However, Sanchez would fashion a couple of chances, with one forcing a good save from Sergio Romero.

With the tempo up, the quality high and plenty of exciting forwards in both sides, more of the same could be expected in the second half, with the question being who would take control. That question was answered in the 51st minute, when Di Maria struck.

Banega was the provider, stealing the ball in Chile's half, before driving forward and slipping a pass to Di Maria down the left channel. The PSG playmaker kept his shot low and hard, and despite the ball going to the near post, Claudio Bravo, not positioned perfectly, had no chance.

Eight minutes later, the match was done as Di Maria turned provider this time, playing the ball down the path of Banega, who saw his shot take a deflection and go in at pretty much the same area Di Maria's did.

With the match as good as won, there was no reason for Gerardo Martino to risk Messi, and while Chile tried their best to get back into the game, the blue and white defence held firm, until right at the end when Jose Pedro Fuenzalida headed home off a setpiece, much too late to get anything out of the game.

In the earlier Group D game, Panama made their Copa America debut one to remember by beating Bolivia 2-1 thanks to a brace from Blas Perez, with the second goal coming in the 87th minute of the game.

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