Two players dominate the non-existent honours in this week’s Argentines Abroad. On Sunday both Lionel Messi and the under-pressure Gonzalo Higuaín hit hat tricks to ensure that Spain’s top two continue to fight neck and neck at the top of La Liga. Messi’s triplete against Valencia began with a brilliant solo goal, whilst Higuaín’s came at the end of a week in which he was pilloried for missing a couple of chances as Madrid went out of the European Cup. Well they might criticise him – it’s not as if he’s spent any of the last couple of years almost carrying the team, or anything. There are also stories to tell from Italy, England and Germany among other leagues, so step this way for the lowdown and the videos.
To Spain first, inevitably. After Valencia had held Barcelona to a goalless first half, it took a tricksy dart through the penalty box from Messi to prise their defence open, beating three challenges before poking the ball past the goalkeeper from close range. Thereafter the visitors’ defence succumbed more readily, with La Pulga claiming another couple of goals to give Barcelona a 3-0 win. Not to be outdone, Gonzalo Higuaín added three of his own to Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener as league leaders Real Madrid beat Real Valladolid 4-1 away from home. On Saturday, down in Seville, Federico Fazio had opened the scoring for Sevilla in a 1-1 draw against Deportivo de La Coruña. On Monday night, Sergio Agüero returned to the Atlético de Madrid starting lineup after his recent injury. He played most of the match and was substituted as a precaution shortly after the only goal in his team’s 1-0 win over Osasuna.
Messi’s hat trick vs Valencia
Real Valladolid 1 – 4 Real Madrid, including a hat trick from Higuaín
Serie A saw a clash of two sides with heavy Argentine involvement, and an unexpected result. Catania hosted Internazionale, and Jose Mourinho’s champions took the lead nine minutes after the break through Diego Milito, but Maxi López equalised for Catania, who went on to win 3-1 to throw a spanner in the works of Inter’s title defence. There were a good range of other Argentines scoring in Italy: on Saturday Ezequiel Lavezzi put Napoli 1-0 up just after half time, only for Fiorentina to storm back and win 3-1; on Sunday Sergio Almirón got Bari’s first in their 2-0 away win over Lazio, and also on Sunday Rodrigo Palacio scored in a cracking match which finished 5-3 to his team, Genoa, against Cagliari.
Catania 3 – 1 Inter, featuring Diego Milito opening the scoring and Maxi López with Catania’s equaliser
The Bundesliga witnessed a return to goalscoring form for Lucas Barrios, who struck twice in quick succession for Dortmund. His goals killed off any chance of a fightback from hosts Bochum, who’d scored twenty minutes before his first to make it 1-2. Thanks to Barrios’ double, Dortmund won 4-1.
Sweeping up the remaining goals in Europe, Ligue Un saw Lisandro López get an equaliser for Lyon with eleven minutes left to draw 1-1 with Gonzalo Bergessio’s Saint Etienne, and Alberto Costa, who moved to France before playing in Argentina, scored for Montpelier in a 1-1 draw with Bordeaux; Leandro Grimi opened the scoring for Sporting as the Lisbon side beat Guimarães 3-1 at home in the Portuguese Liga; Javier Campora scored both goals in the Salonika derby Aris Salonika’s Greek Super League 2-0 win over PAOK Salonika, and Ismael Blanco scored a penalty in AEK Athens’ 3-0 win over Kavala. Monday evening saw Maxi Rodríguez set up Fernando Torres’ first goal in Liverpool’s 4-1 Premier League win over Portsmouth. Javier Mascherano and Emiliano Insúa both also played for the Reds.
And now over to Tom Clark, who as ever has been keeping an eye on what’s been happening south of (his) border, in Mexico…
A bright weekend of action for pamperos in Mexico kicked off on Friday March 12 when Estudiantes Tecos’ 4-1 home win over Índios de Juárez was keyed by early goals from Mauro Cejas and Rubens Sambueza, the latter a dazzling strike from distance.
On Saturday the 13th a 65th minute penalty converted by Alfredo ‘Chango‘ Moreno earned San Luis a 1-1 draw away to Jaguares de Chiapas. And Santos’ 3-0 away win over struggling Pachuca was clinched by a strong individual finish at the death by the gifted Daniel Emanuel Ludueña.
The Argentine performance of the week however came at the close of the weekend with Cruz Azul’s thrilling 3-2 triumph in the infierno of Estadio Nemesio Díez against their hosts, the Diablos Rojos of Toluca. Maxi Biancucchi, in his fourth start up front, steamed up the middle at 16 minutes and laid off neatly for a precise Emmanuel ‘Tito‘ Villa finish. Maxi then kept this back-and-forth affair at fever pitch on 61″ with a turn-and-fire missile from nearly 30 metres, a golazo matching Sambueza’s strike for Argentine-in-Mexico goal of the week. It was Maxi’s first goal in Mexico, but he did not cease his heroics there. With the match deadlocked at 2-2, he silenced the cauldron of red by driving forcefully through traffic to the end line and lofting a perfect ball to his taller countryman Villa to head home the winner.
Biancucchi’s vivid coming-of-age performance made him the hands-down figura of the day. And this one is a strong candidate for the match of the season so far in Mexico.
Toluca 2 – 3 Cruz Azul
You can follow the Clausura and the Argentine sides in the 2010 Copa Libertadores via HEGS on Twitter (including updates during and between matches and similar stories that might not go up on the site until later). I’m slowly gaining followers, but if you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here.