While Argentina, without talisman Messi, looked to be cruising during the first half after goals from Ever Banega and Sergio Aguero, Nigeria were suddenly sparked into life on the stroke of half-time, and a superb second half performance helped them secure the win with a brace from Alex Iwobi and goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and Brian Idowu.
Argentina started the game on top and were dictating play in the early stages as Paulo Dybala linked up well with Sergio Aguero, but his left-footed shot was blocked before it could trouble Daniel Akpeyi in the Nigeria goal.
The first real chance of the game fell to the ‘Albiceleste’ after 23 minutes, when Cristian Pavon sent a first-time volleyed cross in from the right, but Angel Di Maria missed his kick and Sergio Aguero was unable to convert.
A moment of madness from Akpeyi helped Argentina take the lead just four minutes later. He totally misjudged his positioning and picked the ball up outside the area as Aguero tried to close him down. The goalkeeper avoided a booking, but Ever Banega scored the resulting free-kick after some questionable positioning of the wall.
They almost had their second minutes later from a corner, but Nicolas Otamendi, who was in acres of space, couldn’t direct his near post header on target
After more sustained pressure, Jorge Sampaoli’s side doubled their lead after 36 minutes. An brilliant flowing move saw Pavon released down the right, before sending a pinpoint cross in towards Aguero, who finished from close range to make it 2-0.
The second goal seemed to spark Nigeria into life, and they tried to find a way back into the game.
On the stroke of half-time, Javier Mascherano hauled Alex Iwobi down on the edge of the area, and Kelechi Iheanacho curled his left-footed free-kick over the wall, and although Agustin Marchesin got a hand to the ball, he couldn’t keep it out.
The Super Eagles suddenly had a real energy about them, and in additional time, Marchesin denied Nigeria the equaliser when he got down well to keep out Wilfred Ndidi’s low effort.
The African nation made a number of changes at the break, including bringing on Francis Uzoho in place of Akpeyi in goal, but that didn’t stop them carrying on from where they left off, and after six minutes they had the equaliser.
Iheanacho was released down the left and cut the ball back for Iwobi, who finished low into the corner, leaving Marchesin with no chance.
At this stage Nigeria were rampant and just 90 seconds later they were in front. A crisp, quick move ended with Iheanacho finding Idowu, and the substitute curled the ball into the corner with his first touch.
The Nigerian’s third goal prompted a string of changes from Sampaoli and as such the rhythm of the game was disrupted somewhat.
Argentina were enjoying the majority of possession, but their opponents continued to look dangerous with plenty of pace to counter attack.
After 73 minutes Nigeria extended their lead and Iwobi got his second goal of the game. Ahmed Musa worked the ball into the Arsenal forward inside the area, and the Arsenal forward shimmied past Mascherano before calmly finishing past Marchesin.
The South American side were shell-shocked and while they continued to look for a way back into the game in the time remaining, Uzoho was only troubled once when he had to palm Dario Benedetto’s header over the bar.
Nigeria held on two secure what was only their second win over Argentina in memorable circumstances, and will take a lot of encouragement from the friendly as they look towards the tournament in Russia next summer.
Argentina made four changes before the game and were without their star player, but the collapse and poor defending throughout the second half may worry Sampaoli as he prepares his side for the World Cup.
Ibrahimovic will start with bench role, says Mourinho
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have to settle for a spot off the bench to begin his return from injury, Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said.
Ibrahimovic, 36, is set to make his comeback from a serious knee injury when Mourinho’s men host Newcastle United in the Premier League Saturday.
The Swede may have to battle with Romelu Lukaku for a starting spot, but Mourinho said Ibrahimovic would be used off the bench – at least initially.
« As a start, I see him on the bench and it’s where I see him, » the Portuguese tactician said.
« It’s where he’s going to be [Saturday], on the bench. »
« Zlatan, he’s a very important player for us and of course, we welcome him back, » says the boss. « He has incredible personality to fight such an injury. » #MUFC pic.twitter.com/XZOuau166n
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 17, 2017
Ibrahimovic scored 28 goals in 46 games in all competitions for United last season before his injury, and he decided to re-sign for another campaign at Old Trafford.
While the arrival of Lukaku may reduce Ibrahimovic’s game time, Mourinho believes the pair could play together.
« This season we played so many times with two strikers, » he said.
« We played so many times, especially when we played three at the back and the wing backs, we brought the second man to the centre so we can do it.
« We are ready to do it and we prepared ourselves since pre-season.
« In pre-season we started doing three in the back already, so they can play together. »
Championship Review: Sheffield United go top
Billy Sharp scored twice as Sheffield United moved back to the top of the Championship with a 3-1 victory at Burton Albion on Friday.
Sharp netted the opener from the spot in the 10th minute after being brought down by Kyle McFadzean, before Matt Palmer equalised for the hosts with a 25-yard strike.
The Blades captain converted a Mark Duffy delivery to restore the lead three minutes later, and Leon Clarke wrapped up the win with a second-half header, having earlier hit the post.
The result moves Chris Wilder’s men a point clear of Wolves at the summit, with the deposed leaders set to travel to Reading on Saturday, although their joy was tempered by an injury – thought to be a broken leg – that saw Paul Coutts taken to hospital.
The Blades are victorious in Friday night’s encounter at the Pirelli Stadium #twitterblades #sufc #forgedinsteel pic.twitter.com/ZKn252cBae
— Sheffield United (@SUFC_tweets) November 17, 2017
Burton, meanwhile, have now lost five consecutive home matches and sit one point clear of the relegation zone.
Bolton Wanderers, meanwhile, missed an opportunity to climb out of the drop zone after being held to a goalless draw by Preston North End at Deepdale.
Schurrle: Dortmund couldn’t deal with Stuttgart counter-attacks
Andre Schurrle felt Borussia Dortmund paid the price for a lack of dominance and a susceptibility to counter-attacks in their 2-1 loss to Stuttgart.
Peter Bosz’s side suffered their third Bundesliga defeat in a row at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Friday, with Chadrac Akolo and Josip Brekalo scoring for the hosts either side of a Maximilian Philipp strike following a missed Schurrle penalty.
Schurrle, starting a league game for the first time this season in place of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was dropped for a breach of discipline, felt Dortmund responded well to the blow of Akolo’s fifth-minute opener but should have done more with their first-half chances.
The former Chelsea man also called on his team-mates to improve their defensive organisation in order to stop other teams exploiting them on the break.
« I think we played a good game, especially in the first half after the almost own-goal, » he said immediately after the match. « We came back strong, had good control and played some good football. But we need to score more goals.
« In the second half, we didn’t dominate the game as we wanted. It went from in front of their goal to the other goal and, as Borussia Dortmund, you can’t let the game happen like this. We have to dominate and work the ball. We can’t give them so many good chances. »
1 – Josip #Brekalo is the first Croatian player to score for @VfB_int in the #Bundesliga since Zvonimir Soldo back in 2005. Nostalgia. #VfBBVB pic.twitter.com/H84X39Y1gb
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) November 17, 2017
Dortmund lost Sokratis Papastathopoulos at half-time but Schurrle refused to blame Stuttgart’s second goal on replacement Dan-Axel Zagadou, who failed to stop the run of Brekalo.
« Dan came in and played a really good game, » he said. « But when you’re as open as we are, and they play so many counter-attacks, it’s difficult to win games. »
Dortmund now face a daunting run of fixtures, with their Champions League fate to be decided against Tottenham and Real Madrid amid league games against fierce rivals Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen.
Schurrle, however, sees it as a chance to show the Dortmund fans the team is prepared to fight to improve.
« It’s a good opportunity. It’s the most important game for our fans and you saw they were behind us but were very frustrated at the end and disappointed with us, » he added.
« We need to go back, work on our shape, build some stamina and then go and play in the Champions League and the derby. »
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