Argentina beat Russia in five-goal friendly thriller

MOSCOW - Sergio Aguero and Lisandro Lopez scored two quick goals either side of the interval to help Argentina beat Russia 3-2 in an entertaining friendly on Wednesday. After a slow start, the South Americans, who were missing several leading players including strikers Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez through injury, came alive late in the first half. Aguero equalised just before the break with a powerful drive from about 25 metres that caught the inside of the post after Igor Semshov had given the home team an early lead. Lopez then put the visitors ahead less than a minute after the re-start as he caught the Russian defence off guard. Another substitute Jesus Datolo, making his international debut for Argentina, added a third with his first kick of the ball - a low shot into the far corner - midway through the second half. Russia striker Roman Pavlyuchenko, who also came on in the second half replacing Alexander Kerzhakov, reduced the deficit with a 20-metre free kick that took a deflection, wrong-footing Argentina keeper Mariano Andujar 12 minutes from time. Argentina coach Diego Maradona, who had been unhappy about playing Russia in Moscow ahead of next month's critical World Cup qualifier against Brazil, was satisfied with the outcome. "Russia is a very strong team, one of the best in the world, and I'm very pleased how we performed tonight," he said. "I think if Pavlyuchenko hadn't scored, a 3-1 scoreline would have been a more fair result for this game." Despite the defeat, Maradona's counterpart Guus Hiddink was not too disappointed either. "I prefer this type of game against an opponent of such high quality so we could see what the Russian team is capable of doing," the Dutchman told a news conference. "We played very good football for the first 20-25 minutes but then lost concentration at the end of the first half and if you lose concentration a team like Argentina will punish you. "They had three or four chances and scored three goals. It could have been 4-4 but we must learn how to play well for 90 minutes if we want to succeed," he added.