There was no sign of Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero or Javier Mascherano but as expected Argentina still strolled to victory over El Salvador in Washington. A fortunate deflected shot from Ever Banega and a superb free-kick from debutant Federico Mancuello gave Argentina a 2-0 victory.
Like a training ground exercise at times played on a half pitch it was attack vs defence and credit to El Salvador the defence won for the majority of the match. There was little ambition beyond making it difficult for their superior opponents but FIFA’s 89th ranked side frustrated Gerardo Martino’s side and until Éver Banega’s heavily deflected effort eluded the reach of Derby Carillo in goal it was beginning to look like Argentina would never find a way through.
Ángel Di María and Carlos Tevez had already tested Carillo before Banega let fly from at least 35 yards. The ball was low until it flicked up off the leg of a defender and flew into the top corner leaving Carillo on this occasion with no chance.
Martino introduced Independiente captain, Federico Mancuello with twenty minutes remaining and the 26-year-old produced a moment of magic that has become a regular occurance in Avellaneda over the past year. A free-kick from the tightest of angles proved no obstacle for the left foot of Mancuello as he curled an inch-perfect shot into the far corner to wrap up the victory.
El Salvador provided the defence with no test at all so there is nothing that can really be read into the result but Banega appeared to revel in his number five role against weak opposition. The Sevilla midfielder was dropping deep and saw plenty of the ball but the attack was all too often smothered by the numbers in defence for El Salvador. Carlos Tevez was lively in attack and came close to scoring his first goal back in Argentina colours but Federico Mancuello’s debut goal stole the headlines.
The performance of Mancuello will come as no surprise to Independiente supporters but it will be interesting to see if he remains in contention beyond these friendlies and ahead of the Copa América.