Football: Crespo leaves it late to deny Germany with exquisite chip

Germany 2 Frings pen 28, Kuranyi 45 Argentina 2 Crespo pen 40, 81 Half-time: 2-1 Att: 52,000
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CHELSEA FANS had only fleeting opportunities to appreciate Hernan Crespo's eye for goal, but the striker treated the LTU Arena crowd to one of his specials here last night. The 29-year-old striker, who has been in excellent form during his season's loan to Milan, scored a brilliant late equaliser to ensure both sides could take much satisfaction from this high-quality friendly international.

Crespo also converted from the penalty spot in a 2-2 draw and has now scored an impressive 25 goals in 47 appearances for his country.

Both countries are rebuilding under new management and this was an important match for both, but particularly for Germany. With no competitive matches to play before they host the World Cup next year, Jurgen Klinsmann has decided to use a series of high-profile friendlies to experiment with a number of younger players. Although this has meant senior men like Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann taking a break from international football, it has undoubtedly given a sharp edge to Germany's friendly fixtures.

Argentina came here with a squad composed entirely of European-based players other than Roberto Abbondanzieri, the goalkeeper, but in the opening 15 minutes they played as if they had just got off a transatlantic flight. Germany dominated the opening period and created three excellent chances in the first quarter of an hour. Torsten Frings crashed a spectacular volley past a post from 25 yards, Bernd Schneider missed the target with a glancing header and Gerald Asamoah forced Abbondanzieri to make a smart save at the near post after combining well with Kevin Kuranyi and Schneider.

Argentina slowly worked their way back into the game and Javier Saviola gave a warning of dangers to come when he made a surging run down the right. It took a despairing tackle by Christian Worns and a bold save by Arsenal's Jens Lehmann to keep the ball out.

It was Germany, however, who drew first blood, taking the lead after 26 minutes when Nicolas Burdisso needlessly conceded a penalty when he wrapped his arms around Kuranyi. Frings made no mistake from the penalty spot. Thirteen minutes later, Argentina levelled via the same route. Saviola ended another fine run with a cross to the far post, where Crespo shaped to shoot only to be brought down by Paul Freier. The Milan striker, making his first appearance for his country for eight months, converted the penalty.

By now both teams were putting together some slick passing moves and just before the interval Germany went in front again after opening up the South American defence. Bastian Schweinsteiger found Kuranyi in space on the right of the penalty area and the Vfb Stuttgart striker, who is thriving under the Klinsmann regime, slid the ball under Abbondanzieri to take his tally to 12 goals in 21 internationals.

Germany continued to have the better of things in the second half and came close to extending their lead several times. Abbondanzieri made several excellent stops, none better than a flying save to keep out a Per Mertesacker piledriver.

Argentina's best attacking work came on the break and it was against the run of play that they equalised with Crespo's superb goal 10 minutes from time. Finding space behind the left flank of Germany's defence, Crespo spotted Lehmann marginally off his line, and produced an exquisite lob over the goalkeeper's head into the far corner of the net.

GERMANY (4-5-1): Lehmann (Arsenal); Owomoyela (Arminia Bielefeld), Mertesacker (Hannover 96), Worns (Borussia Dortmund), Hitzlsperger (Aston Villa); Asamoah (Schalke 04), Frings (Bayern Munich), Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen), Ernst (Bayern Munich), Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich); Kuranyi (VfB Stuttgart). Substitutes: Freier (Bayer Leverkusen for Asamoah, 29) Schulz (Werder Bremen for Schweinsteiger, h-t). .

ARGENTINA (4-4-2): Abbondanzieri (Boca Juniors); Zanetti (Internazionale), Burdisso (Internazionale), Milito (Real Zaragoza), Heinze (Manchester United); Scaloni (Deportivo La Coruna), Riquelme (Villarreal), Duscher (Deportivo La Coruna), Sorin (Villarreal); Saviola (Monaco), Crespo (Milan). Substitutes: M Rodriguez (Espanyol for Molito, h-t), Cambiasso (Internazionale for Scaloni, h-t) Galletti (Real Zaragoza for Duscher, 77).

Referee: S Farina (Italy).