Ecuador and Argentina played out a 0-0 draw in their international friendly match in New Jersey. While it was a relatively open affair, chances were few and far between, and the final result was a fair indication of the closeness of the contest.
Ecuadorian left-winger Jefferson Montero caused all sorts of problems for the Argentine defense until he was substituted late in the game, while Angel Di Maria impressed in the second term for the Albicelestes.
The woodwork was hit once by each side, with Ecuador's Antonio Valencia failing to convert the best chance of the match after 11 minutes and Argentine substitute Maxi Rodriguez smashing a volley against the post in the second term.
A goalless first half was dominated by Ecuador, who took control of the midfield by harrying Argentina's players off the ball and attacking effectively down the flanks.
Ezequiel Lavezzi used his electric pace to create an early chance, but he snatched at his shot and sent it wide of the far post.
Ecuador should have taken the lead after 11 minutes, when Montero skinned Facundo Roncaglia down the left-hand side and sent in a floating cross for Antonia Valencia to meet at the far post. Despite being all on his own and just outside the six-yard box, however, the Manchester United man could only hit the upright.
Montero and Walter Ayovi combined down the left to further trouble Roncaglia, but again none of the Ecuador forwards could capitalize.
When Ever Banega gave the ball away in a dangerous position, Montero raced through on goal, but he fluffed his shot badly and it flew well wide.
The first half ended with an Ayovi attempt, but the shot lacked power and was easily handled by Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Argentina, led by Di Maria, were much more competitive in the second half.
The lanky Real Madrid winger threatened with a host of long-range efforts. Argentina's midfield were able to control possession better than they had in the opening stanza.
Multiple substitutions upset the rhythm of the match, and when Montero and the excellent Felipe Caicedo departed, much of Ecuador's impetus was lost.
Rodriguez's late shot against the woodwork could have won the game for Argentina, but such a result would have been unfair on Ecuador.
Dominguez 5: He did well when called upon to save, but his distribution was poor and often put his teammates under pressure.
Paredes 7: He kept Ricky Alvarez and whomever else he was marking in his pocket for much of the match.
Guagua 8: A strong performance at the heart of defense.
Erazo 6: An excellent first half showing was blighted by a couple of uncharacteristic errors in the second term.
W. Ayovi 6: He had an up-and-down game. His yellow card was unnecessary.
A. Valencia 7.5: Overall, he did well and looked dangerous down the right, but he failed to convert the best chance of the game.
Castillo 7: He did a great job of harrying the Argentine midfielders, in the first half especially.
Noboa 7: He partnered Castillo with aplomb, helping his side to dominate possession for long periods.
Montero 8.5: The man of the match. He caused all sorts of problems for Argentina with his speed and skill down the left side.
E. Valencia 6: It was a sound performance, but he needs to convert more chances.
F. Caicedo 7.5: He provided excellent movement off the ball and a constant goal threat. He was a useful target man for Ecuador.
Romero 8: He did well whenever called upon.
Garay 7: Solid at the back, he perhaps could have done better when Valencia hit the post.
Orban 5: He lost possession to Valencia once and was troubled by the speedy wide man, but overall he did a better job than Roncaglia on the other flank.
Roncaglia 3: Not a great run out at all for the experimental right-back. He was given a turbulent time by Montero.
Fernandez 8: After a couple of poor displays for the national team, Fernandez was back to his best form against Ecuador.
Di Maria 7.5: When Messi's not around, Di Maria needs to step up his influence. He didn't do so in the first half, but he was the best player on the pitch after the break.
Mascherano 7: This was a decent display from Mascherano. He showed plenty of his trademark fire.
Alvarez 5: He was absent in the first half. He made one forward thrust in the second term, but much more is required of him at this level.
Banega 5: More is needed from Banega as well. He improved in the second half when he was given more time to distribute the ball, but he will probably remain the second choice behind Gago.
Higuain 5.5: It's hard to fault his game. He didn't get any chances, but he did what he is supposed to up front.
Lavezzi 5: He tried hard to offer that spark that is normally provided by Messi. He made a couple of good runs, utilizing his pace, but he couldn't do it regularly enough.
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