Andrew Flint reporting from the Luzhniki –
Russia v Argentina signalled the rebirth of Moscow’s magnificent Luzhniki Stadium with the stellar talents of Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero lighting up the team sheets.
- Sergio Agüero stole the win at the death at second attempt
- High pressing from Russia early on didn’t let Argentina settle
- Atmosphere patchy despite capacity 80,000 crowd
Russia v Argentina – 0-1
Goals: 0-1 (Agüero 86’)
Sergio Agüero stole the win for Argentina five minutes from time after his header had been blocked by Georgi Dzhikia to settle a tepid encounter in chilly conditions. Manchester City’s all-time top goalscorer could have opened his account on the stroke of half-time but for a fantastic fingertip save down low from Igor Akinfeev that kept the scores level.
The official re-opening of Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium played out with more of a whimper than a bang as Russia’s high-tempo pressing petered out. The natural style of skipper Denis Glushakov and Daler Kuzyaev gave little time for Argentina’s playmakers on the ball in the opening 15 minutes but failed to create much danger. Konstantin Rausch was central to a number of early forays into Argentine territory, going down in the box as early as the 4th minute and appealing vigorously for a penalty. Contact was clean though and nothing was given.
Argentina’s first real sight at goal came after 20 minutes as they began to ease into the game. Angel Di Maria broke free in the left channel, forcing Igor Akinfeev to save with his toes and Georgi Dzhikia to scramble the loose ball behind. Three minutes later Akinfeev was at full stretch down low to tip a Sergio Agüero effort round the post.
Russia seemed content to contain what little direct threat there was from their visitors, with their few chances disjointed. Mario Fernandes threw away a decent opportunity after outwitting Di Maria with clever chest control by passing sloppily, while Dmitry Poloz struggled to make any real impression on the game before being replaced by Alan Dzagoev at half-time.
The second half was even more low key as star attraction Lionel Messi was more subdued than usual. He was forced deep on numerous occasions, and despite a few beautifully hit passes out wide he never threatened the goal itself. Just before the hour mark, Glushakov turned his marker outside the box and flashed a hopeful effort a foot wide in what was the closest attempt for Russia. A few moments later he forced a block from Sergio Romero that was collected at the second attempt.
the predictable flurry of substitutions disrupted the pace more so for the following 25 minutes before substitute Cristian Pavon broke down the right and crossed for Aguero, whose header hit Dzhikia on the six-yard line. As the ball rebounded, Agüero gleefully snaffled the chance to send the Albiceleste home with the win.
Russia v Argentina – Man of the Match
Denis Glushakov was the most active player for Russia at both ends of the pitch and was marginally unlucky to end on the losing side. He had Russia’s two best chances and was a constant menace in midfield to disrupt the influence of Lionel Messi dropping deep. The movement of Fedor Smolov was a brief highlight, but without his captain’s calming and energetic display it is unlikely he would have had as much possession.
Russia v Argentina – Talking Point
The re-opening of the cavernous Luzhniki Stadium was the main event in an otherwise unremarkable friendly match. The run-up to the game had been staged with a ‘Moscow Football Day’ and despite the depressing weather had generated a mass of excitement that the performance from both sides sadly failed to deliver.
Russia v Argentina – Match Stats
- German Pezzella and Cristian Pavón both made their Argentina debuts
- This was the first match to be staged at next year’s World Cup final venue after its renovation.
- Argentina had 21 shots on goal, Russia only managed three
Russia v Argentina – Line-ups
Akinfeev – Vasin, Kudryashov, Dzhikia – Fernandes (Smolnikov 45’), Glushakov, Kuzyaev (Erokhin 69’), Rausch – Poloz (Dzagoev 45’), Smolov, Kokorin (Alexey Miranchuk 82’)
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
Romero – Mascherano, Otamendi, Pezzella – Salvio (Pavon 79’), Perez, Kranevitter, Di Maria (Perotti 75’) – Lo Celso (Perez 60’), Agüero, Messi
Coach: Jorge Sampaoli
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football, and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.