Substitute Sergio Aguero earned Argentina a point against Bolivia with a stunning strike in the second half in the opening game of the Copa America.After taking a shocking lead in the second half thanks to a clever goal by Edivaldo Rojas, substitute Sergio Aguero fired home a cracking volley 15 minutes from time as Argentina salvaged a 1-1 draw with Bolivia in the opening game of the Copa America.
"We played in Argentina with a lot of grit, a lot of personality," Rojas said.
An uninspiring effort by the home side in the first half was dampened by Rojas' goal three minutes into the second half. Aguero, after a few minutes on the field, saved Argentina from more embarrassment, drilling home a volley in the box after Nicolas Burdisso chested it at the far post.
"It's the first game - every game is going to be difficult," Aguero said. "Bolivia did well defensively. The important thing is that we didn't lose."
Two years and three months after falling to Bolivia 6-1 in World Cup Qualifying, the host nation could not down its neighbors to the north on a frigid night in La Plata.
The home side started off the game with the majority of the possession, looking to go right at the Bolivia defense.
For the first 30 minutes, both teams were plagued offensively by numerous fouls in the centre of the field.
Argentina were the better side in the early going, playing through Ever Banega up the middle, who found Lionel Messi several times to start the attack.
Looking to play through Carlos Tevez on the left as well, the home side could not break through the last line of the defense to scare goalkeeper Carlos Arias. Ezequiel Lavezzi and Tevez both had a couple chances from odd angles inside the box, but could not convert.
The 15 remaining minutes of the opening half passed with Argentine players showing their frustration at the 0-0 scoreline. Bolivia remained poised for the first 45 minutes, not making many mistakes.
Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Mascherano and Banega, all who tend to be more defensive, forced Messi to return to midfield to look for the ball as failure in the connection between the midfielders and forwards hurt the host nation in the opening half.
Angel Di Maria came on at the beginning of the second half for Cambiasso as Sergio Batista opted for more quickness in attack.
After a surprising move by Batista with the Inter midfielder playing well, an even more surprising moment occurred three minutes in.
Off a corner kick by Jhasmany Campos, Rojas flicked the ball cleverly to the front post off his heel, surprising Banega, who allowed it to slip by him from inches out for the shocking 1-0 advantage.
As the Bolivians celebrated on the sideline, the breath seemed to be taken out of the fans of the home side filled into the Estadio Unico.
With their backs against the wall, the frustration began to build. Lavezzi drilled two balls into the stands. Di Maria's pace and ability to embarrass defenders was absent.
With 25 minutes to go, Marcelo Martins had a chance to put Bolivia up by two as he went alone against Sergio Romero. The AZ Alkmaar goalkeeper stretched his arm out as he dove to the ground to stop Martins to the left of goal, getting a touch on the ball and making another save right after to keep Argentina in the game.
With 15 minutes to go, Aguero leveled the score with the dramatic finish as Argentina failed to impress, suffering a tie against the underdogs.
"It's always better to win these games," Aguero said. "We'll try to fix some things so this no longer happens."
Both teams have one point entering the second fixture.
"It's not easy to face Argentina in their country, their stadium," Rojas said after the match, an understatement, since his was the third goal Bolivia has ever scored in Argentina. "I think we deserved this, the result is fair and now must continue working for the next matches."
Next up, Argentina will face Colombia in Santa Fe on Thursday. Later that day, Bolivia will face Costa Rica in Jujuy.
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