Messi equals Batistuta's record as Argentina's top scorer
LIONEL Messi became his country's equal all-time leading scorer as Argentina romped to a 4-1 win over Venezuela in a Copa America quarter-final in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Saturday.
A Messi goal in the 60th minute took his career tally for Argentina to 54 goals, matching the record held by Gabriel Batistuta.
The strike complemented two early goals by Gonzalo Higuain while substitute Erik Lamela completed the rout.
Argentina, who are seeking their first Copa triumph since 1993, were the better side throughout.
Venezuela made their life easier with some slack defending and a horrific penalty miss by Luis Manuel Seijas.
The result means the 14-time champions will face host nation United States (Wednesday morning, Singapore time) in a semi-final in Houston.
Argentina had lost only once to Venezuela in 20 matches and got off to the perfect start after seven minutes.
Higuain dived to turn a delicate cross from Messi past goalkeeper Dani
The in-form Napoli striker made it two 20 minutes later when he latched on to a slack back-pass from Arquimedes Figuera to round the goalkeeper and slot the ball into the empty net.
The goals roused the underdogs into action and Salomon Rondon twice came close, once bringing an excellent save out of Sergio Romero and then seeing his header crash off the post.
Venezuela should have pulled a goal back two minutes from half-time after Romero brought down Josef Martinez in the box.
However, the Manchester United goalkeeper redeemed himself when he stood firm and Seijas' penalty sailed right into his arms.
Messi put Argentina 3-0 ahead when he worked a lovely one-two with Nicolas Gaitan and then poked the ball under Hernandez with his left foot. Venezuela were not out of it, though, and Rondon got the lightest of touches on a cross to head home and make it 3-1 after 70 minutes.
However, Lamela, who had been on the field for only four minutes, shot home to make it 4-1.