BEIJING (REUTERS) - Lionel Messi had a penalty saved as Brazil continued their defensive rehabilitation under returning coach Dunga with a morale-boosting 2-0 win over old adversaries Argentina in a feisty friendly on Saturday.
Atletico Mineiro striker Diego Tardelli scored once in each half, his first goals for Brazil, as former skipper Dunga made it three wins and as many clean sheets since returning to the role following the World Cup in July.
Dunga upset many fans with his negative tactics in his first spell in charge but his methods seem well timed for a proud nation still coming to terms with a 7-1 hammering at their home World Cup by eventual winners Germany that led to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s sacking.
More compact and organised, the five-times world champions soaked up wave after wave of pressure before launching swift counters at the Birds Nest Stadium in the Chinese capital where soaring pollution levels subsided an hour before kick off.
Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria had early sighters at goal for Argentina before they fell behind in the 28th minute against the run of play following a defensive lapse worthy of Scolari’s Brazil.
A right-wing cross from midfielder Oscar drew the attention of Federico Fernandez and Pablo Zabaleta, the two defenders diverting the ball to an unmarked Tardelli who fired home with goalkeeper Sergio Romero making a poor attempt at a save.
Argentina continued to press but at the other end Neymar should have made it two after a mazy dribble through the heart of the defence took him clear only to offer a tame shot that went wide after he perhaps attempted one trick too many.
The Argentines, runners-up at the World Cup, were gifted an opportunity to draw level four minutes before halftime when they were awarded a soft penalty by Chinese official Fan Qi.
Brazil’s Danilo slipped and allowed Di Maria in behind him before a lunging tackle found man and ball, an incident that led the full back’s team mates to surround and push into Fan in unsporting fashion to protest against his decision.
The delay as the Chinese official attempted to quell the protests and book Danilo appeared to aid the Brazilians as four- times World Player of the Year Messi could only offer a soft, low penalty which Jefferson dived to his right to palm away.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first with Argentina pouring forward and Neymar leading the Brazilian counter attacks while the traditional tasty challenges flowed in unfamiliar surroundings for the 96th meeting between the two great rivals.
Brazilian Filipe Luis and Di Maria should have scored at the start of the second period when put through, the full back lacking composure after a neat Neymar pass and the Argentine taking too long to shoot as Miranda snuffed out the danger.
Another defensive lapse allowed Brazil to make it 2-0 with a corner from the left finding its way to an unmarked Tardelli at the back post and the 29-year-old heading past Romero from close range in the 64th minute.
Tardelli, given his debut by Dunga in his first reign, was replaced with eight minutes to go by Kaka, another returning favourite of the coach, who made his first international appearance in over 18 months.
Kaka had little impact though as Messi continued to press for Argentina, firing a late free kick just wide with new manager Gerardo Martino tasting defeat for the first time.