Cautious Argentina Topple Ireland, 1-0

John Tilghman Correspondent IAugust 11, 2010

Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi celebrate during Argentina's 1-0 victory over Ireland.
Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi celebrate during Argentina's 1-0 victory over Ireland.

The Sergio Batista era began for Argentina in less than thrilling victory over Ireland Wednesday. 

In his first match in charge of the senior team, Batista played a cagey lineup and made defensive substitutions to hold on to a one-goal lead thanks to Angel Di Maria's strike that came form an offside position. 

With Fernando Gago, Ever Banega, and captain Javier Mascherano all starting in midfield, Argentina moved the ball around well and controlled possession, but lacked the presence of a true playmaker in the final third of the pitch. 

Lionel Messi was one of Argentina's most active players earlier, forcing a save from Shay Given. Javier Mascherano pulled the strings in midfield, releasing Di Maria with a brilliant long ball, but the Real Madrid winger saw his shot blocked by Richard Dunne's last ditch tackle. 

On 20 minutes, Argentina took advantage of their possession when Higuain flicked on Sergio Romero's long goal kick to Di Maria, who chipped his shot over Given and into the back of the net of the post. 

Although Di Maria deserves plenty of credit for his exquisite finish, replays showed the goal came from an offside position, but as no technology is allowed in the game, the goal stood. 

After the goal, Argentina continued to dominate with the midfield three of Gago, Mascherano, and Banega recovering the ball on the rare occasions La Seleccion lost it, but the South Americans failed to threaten Shay Given's net. 

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

As was the case at the World Cup in South Africa, Argentina's offense lacked the inclusion of attacking full backs, as Gabriel Heinze and Nicolas Burdisso are far more comfortable as centerbacks than laterals. 

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta entered for Burdisso at half time in the only agressive substitution made by Batista, who seemed intent on keeping his team's slim lead rather than going more on the attack. 

Diego Milito came on for Higuain, and the Inter man again looked lost in the national team set up, confirming why he has never been able to get a good run of games for the Abiceleste

Just before the hour mark, Ezequiel Lavezzi replaced Messi, and with the loss of its best player, Argentina never looked likely to add to the one-goal margin. 

Batista continued to remove his attacking players, as he withdrew goal scorer Di Maria for Jonas Gutierrez of Newcastle. 

Fernando Gago, arguably Argentina's best player on the night along with Mascherano, stung the fingertips of Given with a searing drive late on, but Ireland finished the game nearly grabbing the equalizer at the death. 

Sergio Romero badly misjudged a corner before seeing the ball bounce off his shoulder. Luckily for the AZ Alkmaar shot stopper, Martin Demichelis cleared the ball away, preserving Batista's first victory. 

While it was a victory, the performance was not vintage Argentina. 

Questions must be asked as to why Batista seemed more intent on winning a meaningless match than getting his side to play good football. 

Next month, Argentina take on World Champions Spain in Buenos Aires, and Argentina fans will hope Batista will add more young talent to the side that featured a number of players who will be closer to 40 than 30 by 2014.