MOSCOW: A late goal from Sergio Aguero unlocked a stubborn Russian defense on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) as Argentina won 1-0 in the ground that will stage the World Cup final next year.
The goal by the Manchester City forward gave the South Americans a deserved win at Moscow’s renovated 81,000-capacity Luzhniki stadium.
“We came here to play against a very disciplined and organised side,” Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said. “We made some mistakes in the first half but in the second we improved. We played a very intense game.
“The things we’ve planned did work. We played in a bold, direct manner.”
The coach singled out Aguero for his performance.
“Aguero played very well,” Sampaoli said. “He understood the philosophy of the game and was very active even though he didn’t have much space.”
Argentina, orchestrated by Lionel Messi, seized the initiative early on. Their first meaningful chance came in the 21st minute when Angel Di Maria received Messi’s pass in the area but Russian ‘keeper Igor Akinfeev parried his low shot for a corner.
Three minutes later, Aguero forced Akinfeev into a diving save to deny his attempt from just outside the box.
Akinfeev was the hero of the first half as he produced another impressive save after Aguero’s powerful shot from just nine yards.
After the interval Argentina continued to dominate possession and kept Russia’s defence under constant pressure but failed to find the net before the 86th minute.
Aguero broke the deadlock when he headed in a rebound from his own blocked shot after a sharp break down the right wing and low cross from Cristian Pavon.
“We expected the match to be difficult and that we would not possess the ball or the initiative,” Russia’s head coach Stanislav Cherchesov said.
“Argentina scored after the referee failed to see that one of their players was offside, but I’d say they won deservedly.”