Gallagher Premiership Highlights - Round 21Mar 27
Netherlands 2-2 Argentina (AET, 3-4 on pens): Lautaro Martinez scores winning penalty and Emiliano Martinez saves two after Louis van Gaal's men produce stirring comeback as Lionel Messi nets and assists
The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner came up with an inch-perfect assist for Nahuel Molina's opener before doubling his nation's advantage from the spot, but substitute Wout Weghorst's late brace forced extra time. However, it was Lionel Scaloni's men who prevailed in the shootout in a game featuring 18 yellow cards, a World Cup record.
It was a tale of two Martinezes as Emiliano saved two penalties in the shootout and Lautaro scored the winning spot-kick - after the Netherlands had spectacularly come from 2-0 down late in normal time in a game featuring 18 yellow cards - a World Cup record.
After the excitement of Croatia's penalty-shootout victory over Brazil, this game had a lot to live up to, and after a slow start, the contest burst into life as Lionel Messi threaded a glorious reverse pass through to Nahuel Molina, who produced an assured finish.
Marcos Acuna was then brought down by Denzel Dumfries midway through the second half for Messi to slot home from the spot, levelling Gabriel Batistuta's national record of 10 World Cup goals, before a late Wout Weghorst extraordinarily forced extra time.
Late Argentina pressure in the additional 30 minutes failed to yield a breakthrough, but Emiliano Martinez ensured that they made the ideal start in the shootout by keeping out Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis before Lautaro Martinez kept his composure to seal his country's place in the last four.
Molina showed his attacking intent inside five minutes with a cross that was cut out by Ake on five minutes, but this was a match that was slow to ignite.
Oranje goalkeeper Andries Noppert got away with a risky pass that just evaded Julian Alvarez shortly afterwards, while Messi fed Acuna out on the left only for the Sevilla full-back to badly miscue his cross and the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner blazed off target when he was given space to advance.
Netherlands' only effort in the first half saw Steven Bergwijn drag well wide, with Cristian Romero heading away two Cody Gakpo crosses and a rare overlap and cutback from Dumfries failing to be controlled by Blind.
The one moment of outstanding quality came when Nicolas Otamendi intercepted a Memphis Depay punt upfield and found Molina, who drove forward and past Blind before feeding Messi.
The 35-year-old weaved away from Frenkie de Jong and Nathan Ake and found Molina with pinpoint precision as the Udinese right-back shrugged off Blind and Van Dijk, shifting the ball from his left foot to his right before prodding home.
Acuna was booked along with Jurrien Timber following an altercation just before the break and the 31-year-old was involved in a good tussle with Dumfries shortly after the second period kicked off, with the Inter wing-back setting up two of the three goals by Louis van Gaal's men against the USA in the previous round and scoring the other with a controlled volley.
However, the Dutch were struggling to get their key attacking talents into the game often enough and weren't passing with any real zip despite the introductions of Berghuis and Teun Koopmeiners for Bergwijn and Marten de Roon, allowing the Albiceleste to remain largely comfortable in sitting in and containing them.
Indeed, Lionel Scaloni's side looked the more likely to get the next goal, but after surging forward, Alexis Mac Allister pass through to Rodrigo De Paul wasn't the best and that was compounded by De Paul's slip in the box without anyone around him.
Possession: 52% - 48%
Shots: 6 - 14
Shots on target: 2 - 5
Corners: 2 - 8
Messi then had Van Gaal and his charges breathing a sigh of relief after curling a free-kick just wide of Noppert's left upright having won the set-piece after Van Dijk fouled him.
Scaloni looked to solidify the midfield with Leandro Paredes replacing De Paul, who had a muscle injury, while Van Gaal brought Luuk de Jong on in place of Blind.
However, Messi did have the ball in the back of the net on 73 minutes after Acuna chopped inside Dumfries and the 26-year-old's momentum took him into his adversary, allowing Messi to step up and leave Noppert rooted to the spot.
Argentina continued to pore forward in search of number three as Dumfries took the sting out of Alvarez's driven cross.
Against the run of play though, Van Gaal's decision to introduce Weghorst for Depay paid off as Berghuis whipped a gorgeous cross onto the head of the 6'6'' Burnley loanee, who glanced a header beyond Emiliano Martinez into the far corner.
Almost immediately afterwards, some Dutch fans must have felt their nation had drawn level when Gakpo launched up to Luuk de Jong, whose knockdown was rifled into the sidenetting by Berghuis.
All hell broke loose late on as Paredes brought down Ake before hammering the ball into the opposition dugout, leading to almost the entire Netherlands bench storming the pitch in anger.
Perhaps fortunately, Paredes was only issued with a yellow card, while Scaloni was booked for his protests to take the match tally to 10.
With 10 minutes added, it became an unexpected backs-to-the-wall job for Argentina, with Otamendi heading away impressively under pressure from Luuk de Jong.
Incredibly though, the Netherlands levelled after winning a free-kick in the 100th minute after German Pezzella bundled into Weghorst.
Koopmeiners was the man to come up with the moment of inspiration, running up to the ball and using the jump of the Argentina wall to slip in Weghorst, who held off Enzo Fernandez to slam home and spark bedlam.
Extra time followed, but the three-time runners-up were unable to carry their astonishing comeback into the additional 30 minutes as Otamendi went closest in the first period, but the former Manchester City centre-back couldn't get on the end of Messi's set-piece.
After the restart, Luuk de Jong's shots in quick succession were blocked by Fernandez and Pezzella and at the other end, Lautaro Martinez, on for Alvarez, fired wide off Van Dijk from Fernandez's cross.
In a helter-skelter ending, Fernandez saw his shot ricochet over via Weghorst before Pezzella headed over and Noppert was forced into a terrific save down to his right to deny Lautaro Martinez, with Noppert superbly clawing away Angel Di Maria's vicious inswinging free-kick and Fernandez hitting the post.
The inevitable shootout followed and it was first blood Argentina as Emiliano Martinez flung himself to his right to palm away Van Dijk's effort.
Messi was calmness personified to put his adoring nation ahead, before Berghuis went the other way to Martinez, but same result - saved.
Paredes emphatically made it 2-0 and after Koopmeiners, Gonzalo Montiel and Weghorst all converted, Fernandez was the man who could seal it, but he screwed horribly wide.
Luuk de Jong levelled, leaving it to Lautaro Martinez to slot home with aplomb as Lusail Stadium erupted. Argentina and Scaloni march on.