BUENOS AIRES: Spain hardly resembled a World Cup champion against Argentina, allowing their most goals in a decade in a 4-1 exhibition defeat on Tuesday.
Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez scored first-half goals, assisted by shaky goalkeeping from Spanish backup Pepe Reina. The Spanish lost for the first time since winning the title in July.
Starting instead of No. 1 Iker Casillas, Reina played a part in each goal.
Messi lobbed him in the 10th minute and Higuain beat him from a sharp angle in the 13th. Tevez scored in the 34th after Reina slipped trying to clear a ball.
Fernando Llorente scored in the 84th for Spain, and Sergio Aguero made it 4-1 for Argentina seconds into second-half injury time.
“Argentina was the reason that Spain was not the Spain we are used to seeing,” said Albiceleste interim coach Sergio Batista, who replaced Diego Maradona after the World Cup. “We beat a great team, and things went like we had hoped.”
Spain had not allowed four goals since a 4-1 exhibition defeat at Germany in August 2000.
“It did not surprise me that Argentina was better than us, particularly in the first half,” La Furia Roja coach Vicente Del Bosque said. “We lost with dignity, and we are not looking for excuses to devalue Argentina’s victory.”
It was the second victory for Batista, who took over from Maradona following a 4-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup quarterfinals. Argentina defeated Ireland 1-0 in an exhibition last month.
Spain started just five of the 11 players from its lineup against the Netherlands in the World Cup final: defender Gerard Pique; midfielders Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso; and forward David Villa. Xavi Hernandez entered as a 57th-minute sub for Cesc Fabregas.
Before a sellout crowd of 55,000 at River Plate’s Monumental Stadium, the game was played under a light rain. Villa hit a post and the crossbar in the first half.
Spain came to Argentina after opening European Championship qualifying Friday with a 4-0 win at Liechtenstein. In a busy stretch, Messi and his Barcelona teammates on the Spanish national team play their La Liga home opener Saturday against Hercules, then begin the Champions League on Tuesday at home against Panathinaikos.