Sergio Aguero scored the first goal at the reopened Luzhniki stadium as Argentina beat Russia 1-0 in a friendly Saturday.
The Manchester City forward scored on the rebound in the 86th minute to leave Argentina on a seven-game unbeaten streak despite a difficult World Cup qualifying campaign.
It was the first game in four years at Moscow’s vast Luzhniki stadium, which hosts next year’s World Cup final.
Argentina struggled to break down Russia’s defense for much of the game, but coach Jorge Sampaoli saw encouraging signs.
“We played in a straightforward, courageous, bold manner. We created resistance to the pressure that our opponent put us under.
We need to continue to do the same,” Sampaoli said through a translator. He singled out Aguero for creating scoring opportunities despite a lack of space offered by Russia’s defensive setup.
However, Sampaoli said Argentina had been too cautious at times and “there were situations when we weren’t able to apply the final touch.”
On a chilly afternoon in Moscow, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria went close to scoring for Argentina in the first half, but were denied by good saves from Russia captain and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
Konstantin Rausch headed a goal-line clearance shortly after halftime to cut out a chipped cross from Lionel Messi.
Russia came closest to scoring with two efforts from midfielder Denis Glushakov around the hour-mark, but one went narrowly wide and the other was hit straight at goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Otherwise, the hosts posted little attacking threat.
“We were bad in the transition out of defense,” said Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov, who thought Argentina’s goal should not have counted because of an offside in the buildup.
Cherchesov said playing against 2014 World Cup finalist Argentina was ideal preparation for Russia to learn how to pull off a shock against higher-rated opposition at next year’s World Cup.
“Our opponents were stronger today but we need to learn how to play right and beat them,” Cherchesov said.
With a sellout crowd, security was tight at Luzhniki.
Argentina will be locking horns with the Super Eagles of Nigeria on Tuesday, 14th November in a similar friendly encounter.
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