Argentina shrugged off the absence of Lionel Messi to defeat Chile 2-1 in their opening Copa America game in Santa Clara, California on Monday night.

Argentina’s Angel Di Maria Dedicates Goal To Late Grandmother

While star Barcelona forward Messi sat on the bench with a back injury, midfielder Angel Di Maria put the 14-time champions up early in the second half by scoring the opening goal.

Di Maria, 28, beat Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo at his near post with a low shot in the 51st minute. The young Argentine immediately ran toward his team’s bench where he was a handed a t-shirt revealing his tribute to his late grandmother, a message that read “Grandma, I will miss you so much.”

Di Maria’s grandmother died just hours before the game. “I wanted to play, my grandmother was so proud that I played for the national team,” added a tearful Di Maria following the game, after being awarded the man of the match award.

“I am so happy because I was able to score. It was for my grandmother and my family that are having a difficult time. In the morning when I knew what happened I knew that I would score today, and that happened, and it was for her.”

Di Maria also posted the following picture of him and his grandmother on Instagram, captioning it: “Sweet grandma, rest in peace next to grandad. Thank you for having made me so happy and for giving me the values I take forward with me today. I love you with all my heart.”

Argentina doubled their lead eight minutes later in a similar way, after Di Maria sent a pass to Ever Banega in the same position on the left and his deflected drive beat Bravo again at his near post.

“If you make mistakes in these games you pay a high price and that is what happened today,” Bravo said in a post-game interview.

Erik Lamela, who came on in the second half as a substitute, twice came close to furthering Argentina’s lead, but Chile ultimately scored their lone goal in stoppage time following a mistake from Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero. 

Romero, who played fantastic the rest of the game, underestimated a free kick in the box from Fabian Orellana in the 93rd minute and Jose Pedro Fuenzalida headed the ball into the net.

In the other Group D game, played earlier on Monday, Panama beat Bolivia 2-1.

Argentina will next play Panama in Chicago on Friday, while Chile will face Bolivia in Foxboro, Mass., also on Friday.

PHOTO: SANTA CLARA, CA – JUNE 06: Angel Di Maria #7 of Argentina dribbles the ball up field against Chile during the 2016 Copa America Centenario Group match play between Argentina and Chile at Levi’s Stadium on June 6, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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