Messi missed a golden chance in the first half but fell into place Rodrigo De Paul five minutes before half-time, then did the same for Lautaro Martinez five minutes to go to give Argentina a deserved victory.
the Barcelona player then got his second free kick of the tournament in stoppage time to complete a more convincing score than performance.
It was his 76th goal for Argentina, taking it to one of Pelé’s South American records.
“I have always said that individual prizes are secondary, we are here for something else,” Messi said. “We have a goal and we are focused on it.”
“It was a difficult game, we know how difficult an opponent can be. The important thing is that we have taken a step further.”
Argentina were undefeated in 17 games before the game started and they should have put the result beyond doubt sooner than they did.
More surprisingly, Messi missed the best chance of the game when he finished on the keeper but saw his shot come back from the post.
However, the small striker made up for lost five minutes before half-time when, with the Ecuadorian keeper blocked after making a tackle outside the box, he fed De Paul, who kicked the ball into the net for his first international goal in 25 appearances. .
Messi then prepared Martinez to finish clinically with five minutes left, before recovering to score a free kick in stoppage time, after Piero Hincapie took down Angel Di Maria and received a red card.
Ecuador’s underdogs have entered the game without a win in their last six games, but they had scoring chances against a side looking for their first Copa America triumph since 1993.
Enner Valence in particular will be mad at himself for sending two wide heads up close in the first 45 minutes.
The result means Argentina will face Colombia, who defeated Uruguay on penalties earlier today in the second Copa America semi-final on Tuesday.