The Argentina U23 men’s national football team’s match against Venezuela ended in a 2-2 draw in a controversial game to kick off its play in the Conmebol Pre-Olympic Tournament’s final stage. The team led by Javier Mascherano was ahead 2-1 up until the dying moments of the game, when the referee granted Venezuela a controversial penalty in the 100th minute for the Vinotinto to tie.
Although Argentina started the match dominating the ball and creating goal scoring chances, Venezuela scored first after 17-year-old forward David Martínez’s misguided cross surprised Albiceleste goalkeeper Leandro Brey, ending in an own-goal in the 16th minute
The tie came 23 minutes later when defender Carlos Vivas headed an Argentine cross into his own goal, marking the second own-goal of the night.
The match got heated in the 43rd minute when former Boca Juniors prodigy Valentín Barco brought down Martínez. In the brawl that followed, Barco threw the ball to midfielder Bryant Ortega’s head, who returned the gesture and the incident saw both players sent off.
In the second half, the goalkeepers became the heroes as both teams had chances to break the tie. It’d be the Albiceleste who took the lead when a great passing move between Thiago Almada and Baltasar Rodríguez finished with the Atlanta United star slotting it into the net in the 61st minute.
There would be one last controversy. In the 10th minute of added time, referee Augusto Aragón gave Venezuela a penalty over a contentious foul by Argentina’s Gonzalo Lujan — who was also sent off — on Renné Rivas. Kevin Kelsy scored to tie the match 2-2.
“We got robbed,” said Albiceleste defender Nicolás Valentini after the game. “It’s infuriating because we were the better team.
Head coach Mascherano wasn’t much more diplomatic. “With or without VAR, the team that comes out worse is the same,” he told the press. “Take a look at the images after every game. You can think what you want but we’ve had it all — goals annulled and penalties not given.”
Argentina was somewhat benefited from Paraguay’s 1-0 against Brazil, which means the Albiceleste is still in control of its own chances. The top two teams of the tournament qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.