KRASNODAR, Russia (Reuters) - Mix Diskerud scored deep into stoppage time as the United States twice fought back from a goal down to hold Russia to a 2-2 draw in the first match between the two former Cold War adversaries since 2000 on Wednesday.
Debutant Fyodor Smolov put the home team 1-0 up in the ninth minute of the friendly before Michael Bradley’s spectacular volley in the 76th minute rewarded an improved second-half display by the Americans in the southern city of Krasnodar.
Roman Shirokov restored Russia’s advantage with an 84th-minute penalty and it seemed they would extend their winning streak to five games under Italian coach Fabio Capello.
Substitute Diskerud’s low shot then took a lucky bounce and fooled keeper Vladimir Gabulov four minutes into stoppage time.
The Americans were tentative early on and the hosts took full advantage, Smolov beating keeper Tim Howard with a low drive into the corner of the net.
Smolov’s joy was short-lived though as suffered a leg muscle injury and had to be substituted.
The U.S., who also lost skipper Carlos Bocanegra to injury early in the first half, had trouble keeping possession.
Clarence Goodson, who replaced Bocanegra, produced the first shot for the visitors after nearly half an hour but it was easily saved by Gabulov.
Russia increased the tempo after the break as Alan Dzagoyev went close with a header and fellow substitute Renat Yanbayev fired straight at Howard from close range.
Capello introduced several newcomers including winger Denis Cheryshev who plays for Real Madrid’s B team Castilla and has yet to feature for Jose Mourinho’s side while U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann gave a debut to midfielder Joshua Gatt who plays for Norwegian champions Molde.
The Americans slowly started to find their rhythm and Bradley controlled Jozy Altidore’s header before blasting the ball in from the edge of the box.
Shirokov made it 2-1 to Russia only for Diskerud to save the day for the U.S. when his shot took a deflection, bounced over the keeper, hit the post and went in.
Despite the setback the Russians, who have won all four of their World Cup qualifiers, stretched their unbeaten run under Capello to six games.
“I‘m really pleased with what we showed today,” the former England manager, who replaced Dick Advocaat following Russia’s poor showing at Euro 2012, told reporters.
“I’ve managed to see a lot of new young players tonight and now I could use them in competitive matches.”
Klinsmann praised his players for a spirited display against “one of the best teams in the world”. “We showed a lot of character to come back. We showed we can play with the best teams in the world,” said the former Germany striker.
It was a fitting end to a good year for the Americans who beat Italy 1-0 in Genoa in February, outclassed Scotland 5-1 in another friendly in May and earned a first away win over Mexico by a 1-0 margin at the intimidating Azteca stadium in August.
The teams last met in a friendly in Moscow 12 years ago won 2-0 by Russia.
Writing by Gennady Fyodorov; editing by Tony Jimenez and Martyn Herman