Argentina brush past Dominican Republic to head for quarter finals

February 26 – Argentina closed out their group matches in the Dignity Health Park stadium in Carson, Los Angeles, with a 3-0 win over the Dominican Republic. It was less comfortable than they were probably expecting but still guarantees them progression to the quarter finals of the W Gold Cup this weekend.

It is a measure of how much Dominican Republic have improved over their three group games that, if it hadn’t been for a close offside call, they would have been 1-0 up against Argentina after 18 minutes.

Argentina came into the match after 4-0 loss to the US who in an 8-minute first half blitz had scored three. That Argentina kept the scoreline to just four was a credit to their defensive tenacity.

Dominican Republic came into the game on the back of an 8-0 thrashing by Mexico and a need to find both solidity and confidence.

Argentina needed a similar score to Mexico if they were to wrestle the second automatic qualification slot for the quarter finals off them (assuming that the US beat Mexico in the second match of the night).

Argentina opened with possession and in the fifth minute had an Eliana Stabile free kick headed over. Yamila Rodriguez, the focal point of the Argentina attack alongside Marianna Larroquette had a shot from distance easily fielded by Paloma Pena in Dominican Republic’s goal.

Argentina were shooting but not really testing. On 18’ Dominican Republic had the ball in the net. Mia Asenjo, increasingly holding her own against Argentina’s central defenders, laid the ball off to Vanessa Kara how fired past Laurina Oliveros only to be ruled offside.

Argentina responded and on 25’ Camila Gome Ares had her shot from distance palmed over. She then sidefooted over from the corner.

With the half hour approaching Argentina had the lead but not from their patient build up play but via a breakaway. Diallia Ippolito was fed from halfway with a through ball and had a straight run to clip the ball past Pena 1- 0.

With the pressure eased, Argentina kept the squeeze on. On 40’ Aldana Cometti’s shot from 40m rattled Pena’s bar. At the other end Dominican Republic’s Winibian Peralta, who was winning her fair share of ball in midfield, shot from outside the box forcing Oliveros to save to her left.

Argentina closed out the half in control. In the 43rd minute Stabile hit a free kick from the edge of the box into Pena’s arms, but like much of Argentina’s forward play, the intent was there but not the ruthless finish.

In the second half Dominican Republic grew into the game winning more of the 50/50 challenges and showing more confidence in their ability to hold the ball. But it was Argentina who were dominant.

On 55’ Larroquette fouled on the top lefthand side of Dominican Republic’s box but Romina Nunes free kick was covered by Pena. A succession of half chances went begging but Argentina weren’t getting close enough to goal.

With Asenjo’s ability to hold the ball up, Dominican Republic twice released Kathryn Gonzalez into space on the left as Argentina pressed for more goals. On 68’ Asenjo almost released Jazmin Jackson for a clear run on goal but she was agonisingly offside.

Argentina were still having no joy getting behind the Dominican Republic’s back four and were resorted to a succession of long distance pot shots.

Rodriquez had become a peripheral figure while for all her movement and working of the top line, Laroquette couldn’t find the space she needed. On 73’ Pena bravely saved point blank from Rodriguez – it summed up her night.

On 76’ minutes Argentina did get their second goal. Ippolito fed Celeste dos Santos who received a return ball from Laroquette in the box to push the ball past Pena’s dive to the left. It was beautifully worked one-touch play and the first time Argentina had split the DR’s defence.

Deep into added time Argentina added a third with the last kick of the match. Maricel Pereyra hit a screamer form the edge of the box.

It was a tough final blow for the Dominican Republic who over their three group games and in this one in particular showed that they will have more to offer than just being cannon fodder for the world’s big teams.

The stats would suggest a different story with Dominican Republic being outshot 28-2 and having just 27% of possession but the reality of the game was a little different.

Argentina are pretty much guaranteed a quarter final slot in Los Angeles this weekend as one of the two best third placed group finishers.

Dominican Republic head home having had a taste of elite level tournament play. A developing side with a supportive federation, they will not be gone for too long.

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