Argentines Abroad has been, to put it mildly, a bit out of sync so far this season. It’s become truly, monumentally bad this week and last, though, for a few reasons. For that, I apologise, but I present here the updates sent to me from the last week-and-a-bit (i.e. covering the last two weekends) from my intrepid correspondents, because it seems unfair to me that their stuff should be ignored, even if I am ridiculously late in publishing it. You can follow Ben Shave and David Cartlidge on Twitter, whilst Tom Clark blogs here.
These reports will be presented in the order they were sent to me, so here goes…
Back on the 26th October, Tom Clark sent me this, on Mexico.
Round 14 of the Mexican Apertura kicked off on 22 October, with Estudiantes Tecos 5 – 2 Santos Laguna. Rubens Sambueza finished off this surprising Tecos victory with an eighty-seventh minute score, curling a shot across the goal and in at the far post; a thing of beauty.
On Saturday the 23nd, in Atlante’s 1-1 draw with Tijuana, Javier Yacuzzi set up Jose Pepe Sand in the thirty-ninth minute for the goal that saved the visiting Xolos [who have perhaps the greatest badge of any recently-promoted team in world football - Sam] a precious point.
The same day, Jaguares de Chiapas 3 – 1 San Luis brought the visitors little joy; the game was already well out of reach of the Potosinos by the seventy-eighth minute, but all the same, Alfredo Chango Moreno‘s one-time strike was a worthy “goal of honour”.
* * *
On the 27th October, Ben Shave sent me this, from Portugal.
Ezequiel Garay and Javier Saviola started for Benfica in a low-key 1-0 win at Beira-Mar, perhaps the Eagles’ worst performance of the season so far. Garay and central defensive partner Luisão had their hands full as the home side gave Benfica something of a fright for the first 42 minutes, until Óscar Cardozo opened the scoring. Two more Argentines – Pablo Aimar and Nico Gaitán – made their entrance with half an hour remaining, having been spared a start with a packed November ahead. Off the pitch, Gaitán this week signed an extension to his contract, tying him to the club until 2016. This being Portugal, expect him to depart by 2013.
After a poor performance against APOEL in Porto’s third Champions League group fixture, Nico Otamendi was left on the bench against Nacional, as the Dragons bounced back in fine style, running out 5-0 winners. Fernando Belluschi was handed a start, and responded with another fine display. The former Newell’s and River midfielder has done well whenever called upon this season, though once again he failed to conjure up a deserved goal.
Sporting ran riot at home to Gil Vicente on Monday evening, pummelling the northern side 6-1. Emiliano Insúa returned from suspension, and had another excellent ninety minutes, contributing well at both ends of the pitch. Are you watching, Sabella? Fito Rinaudo was replaced after seventy minutes, though in truth the former Gimnasia man had little to do, so complete was Sporting’s dominance.
It has been a fairly Argentine-heavy week in Portugal’s daily sports papers too. As well as Gaitán, there has been talk of contract extensions for Otamendi and Belluschi at Porto; whilst Benfica have been linked with stars from Argentina’s top division (Teo Gutiérrez and Nicolás Colazo) and even the Primera B (17 year-old Paulo Dybala of Instituto de Córdoba).
* * *
Also on the 27th, David Cartlidge sent me this, covering both the weekend and midweek action from Spain.
Real Madrid continued their super form with a 0-4 demolition of Málaga on Saturday evening, and amongst the goals again was Gonzalo Higuaín. After a spell on the sidelines Higuaín has come back in storming fashion, and his endeavour and clinical touch in front of goal were both prevalent once again here. His finish was made all the easier after superb work from Ángel Di María who cut in from the right wing and reversed a pass through for his countryman. Di María was provider again on the next goal, this time controlling the ball out wide and delivering a perfect cross for Cristiano Ronaldo to score. Martín Demichelis was poor for Málaga, being beaten often due to the immense speed of Madrid’s attacks. Diego Buonanotte made a fleeting appearance but could do nothing.
Barcelona meanwhile were held to a 0-0 draw by Sevilla, and it only happens every once in a blue moon, but Lionel Messi was rather poor. Nothing came off for Messi on the evening as he was shut down quickly by Sevilla and time and time again put under immense pressure. He just couldn’t find the space, nor the usual angles of which he uses so spectacularly. To cap his night off, Messi missed a penalty with the last kick of the game. One to forget. For Sevilla Federico Fazio was drafted in following a raft of defensive suspensions, and though he gave away the penalty which Messi missed, his all round defensive game was excellent. Fazio made numerous clearances with his head and feet, while also making some timely interceptions. The display will give coach Marcelino plenty to think about over the next few weeks.
Valencia and Athletic Bilbao headed the card on Sunday night, with a 1-1 draw at Mestalla. With it looking like they weren’t going to get anything from the game, up stepped Éver Banega to deliver a superb reverse pass into Roberto Soldado who finished expertly. Banega had been in control for much of the game, directing traffic so proficiently as he has done this season. Pablo Piatti came on as an early substitute and probably had his best display in a Valencia shirt, though that isn’t saying much. He worked hard, and made some smart runs with the ball and off it. Piatti has admitted to the press in Spain he needs to improve significantly.
Not a great deal of time to rest for players in Spain, as things were back underway on Tuesday and getting us underway were Granada and Barcelona, of which the latter won 0-1. Again, Lionel Messi wasn’t in any real form and he looked incredibly fatigued, meandering between the lines of attack and midfield without ever looking too dangerous. There was the odd burst of pace, but other than that he faded. Javier Mascherano was playing though, and operated with plenty of style and strength from centre back moving out well with the ball.
Later on that night Sevilla drew 2-2 with Racing Santander. A late cameo from Emilio Armenteros for Sevilla did little to help his chances in the first team, as he was wasteful with what little possession he did have. For Racing Santander Ariel got on the score sheet as he headed Racing Santander in front, although the goal wasn’t to be the winner. Ariel’s movement was smart all evening, and was a constant threat with his physical presence too.
Ángel Di María put in his second superb display inside a week, as he walked away with the Man Of The Match award for Real Madrid in a 3-0 victory over Villarreal. The ex-Rosario Central man was outstanding, and caused trouble all evening for Villarreal in the final third contributing with 2 assists and a goal for himself. The first assist came through some fantastic vision on the halfway line to picking out Karim Benzema, then the next assists with a cheeky flick to Kaká who slammed home. Finally Di María got on the score sheet after a strong sprint down the right channel before running onto the ball and calmly slotting home. Not bad for a nights work. Gonzalo Higuaín got 15 minutes but was quiet as the game was killed off. For Villarreal, Marco Ruben was substituted off with 15 minutes to go after a dismal display in which he rarely touched the ball, while Gonzalo Rodríguez and Mateo Mussachio were given a torrid time at the back by Di María, Ronaldo and co who eased off when it suited.
* * *
Back in Mexico now, because on the 31st October Tom Clark sent me this.
The 14th round continued [from the entry above] with a series of midweek fixtures. On 26 October Alfredo Moreno struck again with a brace, scoring in the fifty-eighth and seventy-third minutes for all the goals his side would need to put away Querétaro at home, 2-1.
On the same night Daniel Rolfi Montenegro awakened a brief spark of hope in the hearts of downcast followers of fallen giants América with an eighth minute free kick that in the end permitted the Aguilas to take a point away from a visit to Santos Laguna.
And Martin Bravo‘s 75th minute goal for home-standing Pumas (UNAM) was enough to put away Atlante in another tight 1-0 affair.
Pepe Sand kept on scoring and Javier Yacuzzi kept supplying for Tijuana, the pair striking once again in the 59th minute of a 2-0 surprise win at home to Jaguares de Chiapas.
Come the weekend [just gone - Sam], and round 15.
On 29 October Mauro Cejas’ impressive 75th minute score completed a 4-0 landslide victory for Pachuca at home to Monterrey.
On Sunday 30 October Cruz Azul, playing away to Estudiantes Tecos, became the third club (following Chivas and Jaguares) to qualify for the liguilla with a 2-0 victory powered by the Cementeros’ veteran Argentine connection. Emanuel Tito Villa drew a forty-eighth minute penalty, which was efficiently dispatched by his compatriot Christian Chaco Giménez. Thirteen minutes later Villa put on the finishing touch with a goal of his own.
And finally Vicente Matías Vuoso was heard from for the first time in what is proving a miserable campaign for América, with a well-taken seventy-fifth minute goal that did not stop visiting Puebla from coming back to nip the Aguilas before their disappointed home support in the colossal Azteca.
* * *
Also on the 31st, we had this to update us fully on Portugal from Ben.
With a packed November looming, rotation is the name of the game at Porto, Benfica and Sporting. This has been of varying benefit to the Argentines plying their trade in Portugal, but one man who has undoubtedly seized the opportunity is Fernando Belluschi. The midfielder made his second consecutive start ahead of João Moutinho against Paços on Friday evening, and produced another effective, industrious ninety minutes as the Dragons moved to the top of the table with a 3-0 victory. Nico Otamendi was rested by Vítor Pereira, but should start at APOEL in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Also rested were Pablo Aimar and Nico Gaitán, who departed from Benfica’s 2-1 home win over Olhanense on Saturday at half time and with 25 minutes remaining respectively. Both found the time for decisive contributions: Gaitán slipped Rodrigo through for Benfica’s first-minute opener, whilst Aimar was involved in the build-up for Rodrigo’s second twelve minutes later. Ezequiel Garay played the full ninety minutes at the back, whilst Javier Saviola appeared for a late substitute’s cameo in the closing minutes.
After over a year in contractual limbo, combative midfielder Andrés Madrid made his debut for Nacional in a 2-1 home win over Beira-Mar. Having finally negotiated an exit from Braga last month, the former Platense and Gimnasia man ought to prove an astute free agent signing for the Madeira club.
Fito Rinaudo and Emiliano Insúa both played the full 90 in Sporting’s hard-fought 2-0 win at Feirense. Rinaudo was his usual self, delivering a number of crunching challenges and appearing to relish the physical midfield battle, whilst Insúa was a lively presence, hurtling up and down the left flank throughout. Sporting have now won ten on the bounce, and much of their new-found consistency can be attributed to the two Argentines.
* * *
And last but not least, on the 1st November David sent me this, which brings us bang up to date on Spain.
Éver Banega [prior to his injury in Europe on Tuesday, after David had sent me this - Sam] featured as strongly as ever on Saturday for Valencia, as they beat Getafe 3-1. The man in the middle controlled the game effortlessly well as usual, dictating the tempo and Valencia’s attacking action. He also dropped deep well and made several tackles regaining possession of the ball. Pablo Piatti made a late cameo, but did nothing of note. Valencia’s demanding fans still wait for the little man to explode. For Getafe, Daniel Cata Díaz had a decent game, putting in some crucial blocks and made a great effort to keep the score line down in his defensive berth.
Banega vs. Getafe
Villarreal triumphed 2-0 over Rayo Vallecano, and a much needed solid performance was put in by Gonzalo Rodríguez and Mateo Mussachio. Villarreal’s defence has been leaky of late as the team in yellow have slipped down the table at an alarming rate, so this was a confidence boosting victory not just for the attack but also the Argentine pair in central defence. Some well-timed headed clearances and interceptions were contributed by both while Mussachio especially was cool coming out of defence.
Barcelona triumphed 5-0 over Real Mallorca, and out to prove a point was Lionel Messi. It had been suggested in some quarters that Messi had been undergoing a crisis of sorts coming into the game as he’d not scored in two games. Yeah, that’s right, two. Such is the stature of Messi in today’s footballing world that two goalless games is a crisis. However, Messi was outstanding all night even aside from his hat-trick. On celebrating the first goal (a penalty) of his evening, Messi picked out the camera man and made a 1,2,3 gesture – directed of surely at the media, not that the man himself admitted as much. A bit of poaching, and a half volley made up the other goals in the hat-trick which took him to 199 goals. Javier Mascherano had little to do as Barcelona’s attack did its thing, though what he did do, was done astutely.
Messi performance v Real Mallorca
In the final game of Saturday evening, Real Madrid came away from Real Sociedad with a 0-1 victory. That single goal was scored by Gonzalo Higuaín. The ex-River Plate man made a smart curving run to evade the offside trap and latch onto a through ball, before nipping the ball home sweetly. Higuaín showed intelligence in front of the attack before poaching behind it. His performance aside from the goal was another of endeavour and he linked up well with the midfield. It was another good performance from Ángel Di María that we’ve become accustomed to over recent weeks, as the former Benfica winger used the ball well in decisive areas and made several good opportunities for team mates cutting in from wide berths and central areas with skill used in the right manner. One particular cross was swung in wonderfully, only for no striker to find connection with the ball.
You can follow the latest news from the selección and Argentina’s foreign legion of players, as well as the domestic championship, River Plate’s first second division campaign in over a century and the ever entertaining/tragic/infuriating capers of Julio Grondona & chums direct from Buenos Aires with HEGS on Twitter. If you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here. You can also join the official HEGS Facebook group, to keep up to date with the latest posts on the blog and discuss things with other fans. You’ll find it here. And remember to bookmark Hand Of Pod, our Argentine football podcast, or if you prefer you can subscribe to it on iTunes here.