Argentina rally sinks Russia
© AFP

Inspired substitutions proved the difference as Diego Maradona's Argentina came from behind to beat Guus Hiddink's Russia in a friendly in Moscow. Lisandro Lopez and Jesus Datolo both scored within seconds of coming on to give Argentina a 3-1 lead before Russian substitute Roman Pavluchenko pulled one back for the home side with ten minutes remaining.

Igor Semshov had earlier given Russia the lead before Sergio Aguero struck a fine equaliser for Argentina on the stroke of half-time. Hiddink was missing wide men Vladimir Bystrov and Chelsea newcomer Yuri Zhirkov for the match at the Lokomotiv Stadium, while Maradona, in addition to the injured trio of Carlos Tevez, Martin Demichelis and Juan Sebastien Veron, lost Lionel Messi to a pulled muscle on the eve of the game.

In a lively opening, both sides created opportunities before Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Semshov put Russia ahead on 17 minutes, firing a shot in from a tight angle which Argentina goalkeeper Mariano Andujar got a weak hand to, but could not keep out.

Aguero was looking menacing for the visitors up front, hitting the side-netting on 14 minutes and going close in the 37th minute, having broken clear and turning Sergei Ignashevich, only to see his chip shot blocked by the onrushing Igor Akinfeev.

But Argentina's pressure was rewarded on the stroke of half-time when a Jonas Gutierrez cross from the left was cleared by Ignashevich only as far as Aguero, who struck a sublime finish from 25 yards past a helpless Akinfeev and in off the post.

Maradona, with one eye on the crucial 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers against Brazil and Paraguay at the beginning of September, rung the changes at half-time, bringing on Lopez for Diego Milito, and the Lyon man made an instant impact, picking up a pass from Emiliano Papa and evading some frantic Russian defending before drilling low past Akinfeev. Datolo struck the third in the 59th minute from the edge of the box, having been introduced by Maradona just seconds beforehand.

Russia had a shout for a penalty turned down in the 65th minute when Andriy Arshavin tumbled under a challenge from goalkeeper Andujar, and Aleksandr Anyukov and Alan Dzagoev both dragged shots wide before Pavlyuchenko, a replacement for Aleksandr Kerzhakov, reduced the deficit with a deflected free-kick.