Argentina into World Cup semis on penalties after surviving Dutch fightback

DOHA. Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved penalties from Virgil Van Dijk and Steven Berghuis as Argentina beat the Netherlands in a shootout after a 2-2 in normal time.

Just as what had happened eight years ago in Brazil 2014, the night ended in high drama after a late fightback from the Netherlands, who had looked out for the count. In the end Argentina went through after Lautaro Martinez scored the decisive penalty of the shootout.

For a long time the game didn't look as if it was going to supply much drama as Leo Messi helped inspire Argentina to a 2-0 lead in the 73rd minute against the Netherlands side that had failed to produce a shot on target.

It was Messi's incredible pass threaded through the narrowest of gaps in the Dutch defense, that set up Nahuel Molina for the opening goal of the game in the 35th minute.

He then scored the 73rd minute penalty won after Marcos Acuna was caught in the Dutch box, leaving keeper Andries Noppert rooted to the spot with a finish hard to the keeper's left.

Argentina had the game totally under control, but that all changed in the 83rd minute when substitute Wout Weghorst got his head onto a vicious in swinging cross to beat Emiliano Martinez and give the Netherlands hope.

By then, coach Louis Van Gaal had virtually abandoned his system of play and placed Weghorst and Luuk de Jong as two tall strikers for the midfield to aim at.

The Netherlands came to life, after spending most of the game, trying and continually failing to get past a well-positioned Argentina, who pressed high in the first half and then dropped deeper after the break.

Things also got tense and niggly, not helped by preening card-happy, Spanish referee Mateu Lahoz, who struggled to keep control as tempers boiled over. Leandro Paredes produced a wild challenge on Nathan Ake and then kicked the ball into the Dutch dugout, promoting a virtual free-for all and producing 10 minutes of added time.

There were just seconds left when Weghorst equalized, taking a short pass when everyone expected a shot from a free kick and steering the ball home to take the game into extra time.

Lautaro Martinez saw an effort rebound off Ake and Enzo Fernandez's shot was deflected just over, before German Pezzella's header went high in the second half of extra time.

When Enzo hit the woodwork in the 121st minute, just as in 2014, penalties would be decisive and once again Argentina went through.

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