Wednesday afternoon saw Russia take on Argentina in a clash of two of FIFA’s top ten ranked national sides in a friendly in Lokomotiv Stadium, Moscow. Diego Maradona’s men, eager to recover some sort of dignity and continuity to their play after iffy recent performances and results, won against another side known for their neat passing. Igor Semshov opened the scoring but thereafter Argentina improved, and although Jesús Dátolo’s debut goal for the selección which made it 3-1 was acclaimed as the key one, it was the second, scored after an unbroken series of passes from second half kick off by Lisandro López, which was the real wonder. Don’t say it too loudly before Brazil in Rosario, but Argentina might just be remembering how to play again…
Sixteen minutes in, Semshov caught new Marseilles defender Gabriel Heinze flat-footed and nipped in behind the left back to finish strongly across the face of Mariano Andújar’s goal. Argentina played in fits and starts in the period after Russia’s opener, but improved as the first half wore on and, near the close of play, got the equaliser they by now merited when Sergio Agüero was able to control a clearance about twenty-five yards out and send a vicious drive into the top far corner off the post.
The second half started rather more brightly. At the interval, Maradona sent on Lisandro López to replace Diego Milito, and it was Licha who put the finishing touch to a neat passing move which began with the kick off and ended with the new Lyon striker turning his defender and shooting low into the far corner to put the visitors into a 2-1 lead. Argentina looked more confident now and just before the hour, Dátolo’s goal, a low left-footed shot hit from the edge of the penalty box, made it 3-1 and gave the albiceleste some space to breathe. It also gave the former Boca midfielder reason to celebrate with his hero: he jumped on Maradona and floored him in an image that’ll take a while to forget. If nothing else it would have been interesting to see Jermain Defoe try it with Fabio Capello during England’s match against the Netherlands.
Both López and Dátolo had scored with their first contributions to the match, and when Ezequiel Lavezzi was introduced for Agüero a few minutes after Dátolo’s strike, he almost had the same luck, but saw his own attempt go for a corner. Argentina were playing with purpose now though, and unlucky not to extend their lead on a couple of occasions. In the 77th minute Russia got some hope after Sebastián Battaglia committed a foul just outside the box which allowed Roman Pavlyuchenko to slam home a free kick with a bit of help from a deflection off the wall. The hosts had long since lost their mojo, though, and the result by this point was never in much doubt.
A morale-boosting win for Argentina, then, and even Gabriel Heinze put in a pretty good shift in the first half, linking well with Jonás Gutiérrez down the left when going forward, though he deserved at least part of the blame for Russia’s opener. The serious business recommences in El Gigante Del Arroyito on the 5th September when Brazil visit, but for now Argentina can smile. They played well, and they won. And what’s more, they did it without Lionel Messi, who was eager to play but at Maradona’s insistence, to protect his leg strain, sat the match out. Bigger battles lie ahead.
International friendly, Moscow, 12th August 2009: Russia 2 – 3 Argentina
Very interesting article. I’ve been following this site for some time now.. It’s hard to find a good Argentine football site in english like yours. Keep it up and keep us updated. Vamos Argentina!
I didn’t see the game and I’m wondering how Bolatti did, since none of the write-ups I’ve seen really mention him…?
There’s a torrent of the game in russian, as far as i can tell bolatti had an unspectacular time in midfield, mainly just one-touched the ball up toward aguero for most of the first half – his most notable play was one long ball for aguero who combined with heinze in one of his early runs up the left side (he did a lot of that in the first half) who crossed a ball into the middle, ended with a weak header by burdisso to the keeper ruso.
He did manage to be one of the few who could clean up after those deep runs by Arshavin (best overall player on the pitch all day imo but was stunted by poor teamplay)