Argentina into semis with extra-time winner

Angel di Maria scored an extra-time goal to fire defending champions Argentina into the Olympic semi-finals with a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands.

updated: August 22, 2008 09:09 IST
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Benfica midfielder Angel di Maria scored an extra-time goal to fire defending champions Argentina into the Olympic semi-finals with a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands on Saturday.

It set up a mouthwatering clash with arch-rivals Brazil for a place in the gold medal match after the Samba Boys beat Cameroon 2-0.

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi opened the scoring for Argentina in the 14th minute before Otman Bakkal drew the Dutch level 11 minutes before half-time.

Despite numerous chances to kill the game off, the score remained deadlocked until Messi fed a pass through to di Maria in the 15th minute of extra-time and he slipped the ball under goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.

With the legendary Diego Maradona watching from the stands, Argentina came out with all guns blazing as they looked for an early breakthrough.

But the Dutch had the first chance when Ajax midfielder Urby Emanuelson was picked out in the box and launched a well-timed volley that grazed the post after six minutes.

In a fast and furious opening period, Messi, benched for Argentina's last game, engineered a beautiful one-two but couldn't get his shot past Vermeer, who did well to close down the threat.

The Barcelona forward was the danger man and involved in a move that ended with Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero curling a right foot shot past the post.

A goal seemed imminent and Messi duly delivered, intercepting the ball just outside the box, chesting it down and taking another touch with his knee before rounding Vermeer and cooly converting.

The Netherlands were struggling to get in the game but their captain, Liverpool's Ryan Babel, steadied the ship and they started to create their own chances, culminating in the equaliser.

Following a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, Evander Sno's shot came off a defender and landed at the feet of Bakkal, who made no mistake as Argentina lamely appealed for offside.

At the other end, Aguero had a glorious chance to regain the lead two minutes into the second period when he latched onto a through ball and lifted his shot past the advancing Vermeer, only to see it drift wide.

And he had another opportunity five minutes later when he met a cross from Liverpool's Javier Mascherano but directed his header wide.

The Dutch were also desperately looking for a winner, with Jonathan de Guzman's 30 yard strike turned round the post by diving keeper Oscar Ustari.

Real Madrid's Royston Drenthe should have won the game with four minutes left but he skied over the bar and the match went to extra-time.