Italy had some good chances with Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile, but Ever Banega and Manuel Lanzini gave Argentina a 2-0 friendly win.
The Azzurri began a new era under interim CT Gigi Di Biagio, who was in charge while the FIGC seek a new Coach to replace sacked Gian Piero Ventura. The failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was a heavy blow to the Nazionale and big changes were made, including the debut of 20-year-old Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa and the implementation of a 4-3-3 system. Argentina missed Sergio Aguero due to a knee injury and Leo Messi was not risked from the start after a muscular issue, but Jorge Sampaoli left Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi at home.
The Italy squad all walked out in Manchester wearing Davide Astori’s Number 13 jerseys. The match shirt also bore a message for the Fiorentina captain: Davide always with us.
While the Azzurri had a great passing move into the box within 44 seconds, Argentina had the first real shot on target on 16 minutes, as Nicolas Otamendi got his head to an Angel Di Maria corner and Gigi Buffon parried off the line.
Former Roma midfielder Leandro Paredes drilled just wide from distance, although Buffon appeared to have it covered. SuperGigi was up to the task when Nicolas Tagliafico was left in acres of space down the left and a powerful effort was beaten away at the near post.
The best chance came on the stroke of half-time, as Di Maria’s inspired through ball released Higuain and Buffon got just about enough on it in a one-on-one situation.
Lorenzo Insigne seemed as if he had to open the scoring straight after the restart when Ciro Immobile pounced on a defensive error and rolled across, but the Napoli man turned over with only Willy Caballero to beat from nine yards.
Moments later, Manuel Lanzini was allowed a free header only to put that over the crossbar on Di Maria’s assist.
It was a more open half and Insigne had another great chance, this one set up by Chiesa from the by-line, but Caballero managed to fingertip it off his feet from six yards.
Marco Verratti’s assist allowed Immobile to spring the offside trap and Caballero came flying off his line to parry the shot.
Di Biagio made a triple substitution, introducing Leonardo Spinazzola – and moving Mattia De Sciglio to right-back – Lorenzo Pellegrini and Antonio Candreva.
Insigne got the better of the offside trap again, forcing a save from a tight angle, and Jorginho’s follow-up was also smothered. Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Verratti limped off with a thigh problem and Milan’s 20-year-old striker Patrick Cutrone was given his senior Italy debut.
The deadlock was finally broken by former Inter man Ever Banega, as Jorginho gave away possession in midfield and Banega drilled into the far bottom corner.
Pellegrini almost caught the Argentina defenders in possession, sliding wide with Caballero far off his line, but Buffon used his legs to deny a Diego Perotti angled drive.
Argentina added a second, taking advantage of Italy going all-out in attack and leaving the defence two against three, as Higuain set up Manuel Lanzini to blast under the bar.
Argentina 2-0 Italy
Banega 75 (A), Lanzini 85 (A)
Argentina: Caballero; Bustos (Mercado 88), Otamendi, Fazio, Tagliafico; Paredes (Banega 64), Biglia; Lanzini, Lo Celso (Pavon 76), Di Maria (Perotti 64); Higuain
Italy: Buffon; Florenzi (Spinazzola 60), Bonucci, Rugani, De Sciglio; Parolo (Pellegrini 60), Verratti (Cristante 70), Jorginho (Belotti 86); Chiesa (Candreva 60), Immobile (Cutrone 74), Insigne
Ref: Atkinson (ENG)