Italy vs. Argentina: Final score 1-2, The Albiceleste hold on for narrow victory

Paolo Bruno

Goals from Gonzalo Higuaín and Éver Banega have seen Argentina hold on for a 2-1 friendly victory over Italy, despite a late rally from the Azzurri.

Argentina have beaten Italy in their first clash in over a decade, taking a 2-1 win in Rome. Goals from Gonzalo Higuaín and Éver Banega were enough for the Albiceleste to take victory, despite a late Lorenzo Insigne effort allowing Italy back into the match.

Argentina started the game brighter than their Italian hosts, with Higuaín looking immediately dangerous. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was called into action to keep out one of his low shots inside the opening five minutes, before Giorgio Chiellini made a goal-saving tackle on Napoli's summer signing.

After a shaky start, the Azzurri gradually settled on the ball rather than repeatedly playing hopeful long passes up to lone striker Pablo Osvaldo. However, they were left kicking themselves after 20 minutes, when stand-in centre-back Daniele De Rossi gifted the ball to his Erik Lamela. The winger squared the ball for Higuaín, who stepped infield before lashing the ball inside the far post for 1-0.

Italy's response was positive, though they still struggled to test goalkeeper Mariano Andújar. Osvaldo was working hard in attack, though the Azzurri's best chances came from hopeful efforts from outside the box. That was until Claudio Marchisio popped up in the area to meet a low Antonio Candreva cross five minutes before half time, though the Juventus midfielder inexplicably failed to make a clean contact with the ball, and the chance went begging.

Italy looked more comfortable in possession as the half drew to a close, though could still be easily exposed on the counter-attack. Inter Milan striker Rodrigo Palacio should've unquestionably doubled the Albiceleste's lead on the stroke of half time, though he slid Ángel di María's square pass from the right too high when practically in front of an open goal.

Cesare Prandelli made three half-time substitutions, though any hopes Italy had of quickly drawing level were dashed when Argentina substitute Éver Banega was gifted space on the edge of the box four minutes after the restart. The Valencia midfielder dashed from deep to receive the ball, before drilling it across Buffon and into the bottom corner.

A few minutes later, and in a game arranged in dedication to Pope Francis, Prandelli committed a nigh-on sacrilegious act, by substituting Buffon. His replacement, Lazio's Federico Marchetti, was called into action almost immediately, palming away Palacio's cross from the right before acrobatically denying Higuaín on the rebound.

Alessandro Diamanti almost responded with a brilliant free-kick, though the Bologna midfielder's effort cracked off the crossbar with just over 20 minutes remaining. Alberto Aquilani scrambled the ball into the net in the aftermath, though the goal was rightly chalked off for offside.

With 15 minutes remaining, Italy finally did have their breakthrough. Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne opened his account for the Azzurri with an excellent curling shot from the edge of the box, before the game completely opened out. Di María and Insigne squandered excellent chances within seconds of each other, as Argentina clung to their slender lead.

Maxi Rodríguez should've killed the game inside the final minute of normal time, though his first-time shot was superbly stopped by Marchetti. Despite Italy applying most of the pressure in the dying moments, they couldn't find an equaliser, losing 2-1.

Italy: Gianluigi Buffon (Federico Marchetti 54'); Luca Antonelli, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi, Christian Maggio (Alessio Cerci 71'); Riccardo Montolivo (Lorenzo Insigne 46'), Marco Verratti, Claudio Marchisio (Alessandro Florenzi 46'); Emanuele Giaccherini (Alessandro Diamanti 54'), Antonio Candreva (Alberto Aquilani 46'); Pablo Osvaldo

Goals: Insigne (75')

Argentina: Mariano Andújar; José María Basanta, Federico Fernández, Ezequiel Garay (Fabrizio Coloccini 71'), Hugo Campagnaro; Javier Mascherano (Maxi Rodríguez 76'), Lucas Biglia; Ángel di María (Francisco Cerro 81'), Rodrigo Palacio (Augusto Fernández 88'), Erik Lamela (Éver Banega 46'); Gonzalo Higuaín (Ezequiel Lavezzi 61')

Goals: Higuaín (21'), Banega (49')

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