Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez’s cheeky chipped penalty gave hosts Chile a 4-1 penalty shoot-out victory after a goalless draw in the 2015 South American Copa America final against Argentina.
The 26-year-old scored the winning spot-kick with a ‘Panenka’ finish after Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain and Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega missed for Argentina, leaving La Albiceleste still waiting for their first international title since 1993.
Manchester United winger Angel di Maria was also forced off the pitch after 28 minutes at the Estadio Nacional Julio Martinez Pradanos in Santiago with what looked like a muscular injury in the right leg, but the extent of the problem is still unknown.
Heading into the Final, Chile were looking for their first Copa America title, while Argentina had tasted defeat in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final against Germany nearly a year ago.
The first chance fell to La Roja, when Napoli forward and semi-final hero Eduardo Vargas’s cross found Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal, whose volley on the turn was parried clear by Sampdoria’s Sergio Romero between the sticks for Argentina.
At the other end, Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero met a super set-piece from Barcelona forward and captain Lionel Messi, but the striker’s glancing header was instinctively saved by Chile’s skippering goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, Messi’s teammate at Barca.
Di Maria went to ground after a darting run forward with the ball, but despite attempting to play on, he was substituted for Paris Saint-Germain forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, and the 30-year-old was found 12 yards out by PSG teammate and midfielder Javier Pastore in first-half stoppage-time, but his right-footed shot was straight at Bravo.
The second period of play lacked chances until the final 10 minutes, as extra-time loomed.
Sanchez’s turn and volley from 15 yards out at an angle went agonisingly wide of Romero’s goal, before Argentina had the best chance of the game in injury time.
Pastore’s driving run on the left in a two-on-two situation saw the 26-year-old make a superb low ball to Higuain, who could only turn it wide from an angle a yard out.
A nervy extra-time period was followed by a penalty shoot-out, in where Fiorentina midfielder Matias Fernandez, Messi and Vidal converted to give Chile a 2-1 lead, before Higuain ballooned his penalty over the bar.
Internacional midielder Charles Aranguiz made it 3-1 to the hosts, but Banega’s effort for Argentina was stopped by Bravo.
Sanchez stepped up, and with a deft chip into the middle of the goal, he sent the Santiago crowd into raptures.