Aston Villa star hailed as "animal in goal" after Copa America thriller

Emiliano Martinez
Emiliano Martinez / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/GettyImages

Argentina celebrated a dramatic victory over Ecuador in the Copa America quarter-finals, thanks to the heroic efforts of their goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez. The Aston Villa star once again proved his mettle in a high-pressure penalty shootout, securing Argentina's place in the semi-finals.

Argentina seemed poised for a straightforward win after Lisandro Martinez's header gave them a 1-0 lead. However, Ecuador's Jordy Caicedo equalised in the 91st minute, forcing the game into a nerve-wracking penalty shootout. The tension escalated when Lionel Messi missed the opening penalty with a Panenka attempt that hit the crossbar.

Emiliano Martinez, known for his penalty-saving prowess, stepped up to save the day. He successfully blocked attempts from Angel Mena and Alan Minda, ensuring Argentina's progression to the semi-finals. His performance was lauded by teammates, with Rodrigo De Paul stating,

"We have an animal in goal. What he is doing is crazy. He deserves it. He loves these colours. He gives us a lot of security and peace of mind. We try to do the same for him but in these important moments he is always there."

Rodrigo De Paul (via The Athletic)

Martinez's contributions have been crucial for Argentina, not just in this match but throughout the tournament. His ability to perform under pressure has been a key factor in Argentina's success. The team will face either Venezuela or Canada in the semi-finals, with their sights set on defending their Copa America title.

Martinez's stellar form extends beyond international duty. Under the management of Unai Emery, Aston Villa had an outstanding campaign last season, finishing in a UEFA Champions League spot. Martinez has been a consistent performer for the Villains since his move to Villa Park in the summer of 2020. His performances have earned praise from football luminaries like Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino.

Despite his impressive track record, Martinez often flies under the radar when discussions about the best goalkeepers in the division arise. However, with rumours of Ederson's potential move to the Saudi Pro League, which could make him the highest-paid goalkeeper in the world, Martinez's name is increasingly being mentioned in conversations about the top shot-stoppers in the league.

Argentina's journey to the semi-finals has not been without challenges. The team almost threw the game away against Ecuador, but they held their nerve despite Messi's missed penalty. De Paul emphasised the difficulty of the match and the team's resilience, highlighting the collective effort that has brought them this far.

As Argentina prepares for their semi-final clash, they do so with confidence, knowing they have their "animal in goal" ready to defend their title. Martinez's heroics have further cemented his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. His ability to perform under pressure and his unwavering commitment to his team make him an invaluable asset both for Argentina and Aston Villa.