There’s been an award for an Argentine player in MLS, a bucket-full of goals for Argentines in Italy, the captaincy of the national team bestowed upon Javier Mascherano in England, another goal for Fernando Cavenaghi in France, and plenty of goals in Mexico too. The headline act of the weekend, though, was in Spain: Gonzalo Higuaín continued to show that his nervous start to life at Real Madrid was just a case of growing pains, with a performance on Saturday that stunned La Liga.
Madrid were ropey at the back in the Bernabéu, and fell behind three times to Real Mallorca. Each time, though, Higuaín equalised, once from a penalty, with the third of his hat-trick coming in the 70th minute after the hosts had been reduced to ten men through the sending-off of Sergio Ramos. And then the piéce de résistance: a 78th minute penalty which was saved, but which Pipita emphatically slammed home the rebound from. Four goals for a 4-3 triumph, even if Gabriel Heinze once more had a bit of a ‘mare at the other end. Barcelona won 6-0 later in the evening with Samuel Eto’o, the side’s Cameroonian forward, matching Higuaín’s tally with four from open play, but it didn’t stop the Spanish press from drooling over the former River man; ‘He does Raúl’s job. And Van Nistelrooy’s too,’ was one of the more gushing epithets. Give it a year and he’ll be up there with Di Stéfano. Well, Marca made that comparison about Wesley Sneijder on his Madrid debut…
In England, Newcastle United’s Jonás Gutiérrez returned from injury but it was his team-mate Fabricio Coloccini who made the difference in the team’s match against Fulham, giving away a penalty for the hosts to win 2-1. Carlos Tevez got on for the last quarter-of-an-hour or so as Manchester United lost 2-1 at Arsenal, but it’s Javier Mascherano who’s had the best weekend of the Argentine contingent in England: not so much for his or his team’s performance as for the fact that it was revealed on Monday that Diego Maradona’s talked him into accepting the captaincy of the national team. Masche was captaining Argentina’s Under 20s at the age of 17 as is known in Argentina as El Jefecito (‘the little chief’), so this isn’t a huge surprise, but I’d have thought he’ll be fairly happy about it.
In Italy there was a 90th minute winner from Julio Cruz which saved Internazionale boss José Mourinho from the boo-boys at home to Udinese; another goal for Mauro Zárate to set Lazio on the way to a 3-0 win over Siena, and Diego Milito hit a second half hat-trick for Genoa, who beat Reggina 4-0. Fernando Cavenaghi scored again for Bordeaux, who beat Auxerre 2-0 in France’s Ligue Un. And in the Portuguese Cup, Lucho González missed a penalty but Lisandro López and Tomás Costa scored in the shootout as Porto put Sporting out in the Alvalade.
In North America, Javier Morales has been named Real Salt Lake’s Most Valuable Player for the 2008 MLS season after topping the regular season assists table, level with compatriot Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Morales tells El Gráfico that he’s very happy to have been given the award, and to be in the playoffs with his team. Well, duh.
In Mexico, we’ve had nine Argentine goals over the last two rounds of matches as the season approaches zero hour for the teams hoping to survive relegation, or get into the playoffs. Most decisive were Ezequiel Maggiolo’s 11th minute strike to win the match 1-0 for Indios de Juárez against Cruz Azul and Alfredo Moreno’s effort – also in the eleventh minute – to help América beat Monterrey by the same score. There was also an effort in vain from Lucas Lobos for Tigres, who lost 3-1 to Cruz Azul in midweek, whilst Pachuca were involved in a 2-2 draw on Wednesday. Damián Alvarez put them 1-0 up away to Tecos but Jorge Zamogilny equalised, and Christian Giménez got the goal to make it 2-2 for Pachuca after Flavio Medina had put the hosts 2-1 up. He also scored against Chiapas on Saturday, in a 2-1 loss. And on Sunday former River midfielders Daniel Ludueña (for Santos Laguna) and Eduardo ‘Chacho‘ Coudet (for San Luis) traded first half goals in a 2-2 draw.
Thanks as ever to Tom Clark for the Mexico research.