Player ratings: Martinez shines for Argentina as Messi rests

MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — Argentina defeated Peru 2-0 at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday night and with the victory, Lionel Scaloni’s men — who were already through to the quarterfinals of Copa América — won Group A with three wins from three without conceding a goal.

The first half came with an overwhelming amount of Argentine possession (almost 80%) and control but with no end result. The midfield trio of Leandro Paredes, Exequiel Palacios and Giovani Lo Celso worked hard to move the ball from side to side, often looking at the wide threat of Ángel Di María and Alejandro Garnacho, who enjoyed a decent debut as a starter.

Argentina pushed in the first 45 minutes but with not enough conviction as Pedro Gallese — the Peruvian goalkeeper from Orlando City — made sure to keep it 0-0 by the break. The best attempt was a shot from Lo Celso as Gallese denied the Tottenham Hotspur man from 12 yards.

Without Lionel Messi, who was rested with Argentina’s progress already assured, it will always seem like something is missing for Scaloni’s side and felt like the case on Saturday: Argentina were looking for a response to their domination but without avail.

Until the second half that is, when Argentina came back with more aggression and in the 47th minute, Lautaro Martínez, who seemed frustrated in the first half, scored the opener thanks to a great assist from Di María. It was his 27th career international goal for La Albiceleste.

Paredes failed to convert a penalty earned by Gonzalo Montiel, but the world champions kept pushing and so did Martínez and, in the 86th minute, the Internazionale attacker got his brace thanks to a great chip. It was a good reward for a great night’s work.

In the end, Argentina never really broke sweat, winning the game and group in perfect style.

MANAGER RATING (1-10)

Lionel Scaloni, 9 — A patient approach from Scaloni, knowing that his team — without their best player — was going to eventually, slowly unfold Peru’s plans. Placed trust in this rotated squad, especially Martínez, and never stopped directing his side, standing from the bench until the final whistle.

PLAYER RATINGS (1-10; 10: best. Players introduced after 70 minutes receive no rating)

GK Emiliano Martínez, 7 — Very little to do in the first half. Didn’t have to make a stop and grabbed a free-kick scoop in the second as well as one shot that was possibly dangerous. Things got trickier by the end but in the end, it was nothing he couldn’t deal with and kept another clean sheet, his third of the tournament.

DF Gonzalo Montiel, 7 — A solid game, once again imposing his presence on Peru, protecting the backline and always looking to go forward. Earned the penalty that wasn’t scored.

DF Germán Pezzella, 7 –– Solid but not impressive control of the backline alongside Nicolás Otamendi. Didn’t have to do much defensively and was more in charge of directing play from the back.

DF Nicolás Otamendi, 8 — Great ball in for Di Maria in the first half. Overall solid leadership from the veteran defender, making sure there were no major issues from the opposition.

DF Nicolás Tagliafico, 7 — Solid game, covering a lot of ground. Won a free kick and created a few chances for Garnacho and others.

MF Leandro Paredes, 6 — Great control of the midfield in the first half and fired off a long shot that came close. Generally strong throughout and lost cool only in the latter stages with a yellow card. He missed the penalty so that influenced his rating.

MF Giovani Lo Celso, 7 — Generally decent as the connector between midfield and attack, had a shot blocked by Gallese in the first half and was offside for a goal in the second.

MF Exequiel Palacios, 8 –– Moved the ball with ease, with a 100% pass success rate, making sure Argentina stayed simple with their movement. Much of the good work from Argentina’s midfield began with him.

FW Alejandro Garnacho, 7 — Lively in the first half, moving with energy, causing headaches to the Peruvian right side, and even got involved in some interceptions. An encouraging starting debut for the 19-year-old.

FW Àngel Di María, 8 — Another commanding performance from Di Maria, who created more mayhem as the game developed. It was his wonderful assist that set up Martínez for the opener.

FW Lautaro Martínez, 9 — A frustrating first half for the striker improved immediately in the second with a good, clean finish, grabbing the lead for Argentina. He never stopped running or working for the team, and kept creating chances, and in the end, earned his brace. Four goals in three matches now for him.

SUBSTITUTES

MF Enzo Fernández, 6 — Came in and did the job without inflicting much on Peru.

MF Nico Gonzalez, 6 — Replaced Garnacho and was simple yet effective.

MF Valentin Carboni, N/R — Came on for Di Maria once the game was won.

MF Guido Rodriguez, N/R — Replaced Parades, who was on a yellow card.

DF Lucas Martínez Quarta, N/R — Subbed on in the 83rd minute as Scaloni looked to run down the clock.