After last week’s midweek cup finals in Spain and Italy, the gongs are starting to be handed out for the competitions people actually care about now, and already we’ve got three more league champion sides in Europe with Argentine representation to add to AZ in the Netherlands and Porto in Portugal. The Spanish, Italian and English league trophies all got kissed by Argentine lips over the weekend, and there was action elsewhere too. The perfect time to cast your nomination for the HEGS / Mundo Albiceleste Argentines Abroad award.
Saturday saw all three of the champions crowned, although only in the case of Manchester United did the victorious team celebrate thanks to a result they’d got themselves. Carlos Tevez started but didn’t see much of the ball at home to Arsenal in a 0-0 draw which confirmed United’s record-equalling 18th English title. When he was replaced in the 66th minute, shaking his head, the stadium gave him an ovation and he waved what will probably prove to be farewell, in his last home match at Old Trafford. After the match, during Sir Alex Ferguson’s celebratory speech to the crowd, the manager was interrupted by a chorus of ‘Fergie, sign him up’ rolling down from the stands. Will they keep hold of Carlitos? The following day, Juan Carlos Menseguez had some nice touches but it was Javier Mascherano‘s Liverpool who got over some of the disappointment at being pipped to the title with a 2-0 win which relegated the midlands club.
In the case of Lionel Messi‘s Barcelona the Spanish first division title was confirmed without them playing, after a late winner from Villarreal (whose late equaliser had denied Barça the title a week previously) saw them edge out Real Madrid 3-2. Gonzalo Higuaín had equalised two minutes previously with one of the most preposterous goals imaginable – not only was he offside, but he also knocked it over the line, after an initial block from the goalkeeper, with his hand – but the title heads back to Catalunya. Messi didn’t travel to Mallorca for Sunday’s match, kept in cotton wool in preparation for the European Cup final next week, and his team-mates lost 2-1.
In Italy, Internazionale’s title was also awarded thanks to their rivals’ misfortune, with Milan’s 2-1 defeat away to Udinese enough to give their city rivals a third straight Serie A title, and give Portuguese boss José Mourinho the distinction of being the only manager to have been a champion of both England and Italy. Inter played Siena on Sunday and Esteban Cambiasso opened the scoring just before the break in a 3-0 win. Walter Samuel and Javier Zanetti also started. As well as Mourinho’s record, the scudetto is Nicolás Burdisso‘s fourth, and it brings him just two trophies away from Alfredo Di Stéfano‘s record for an Argentine player of 19 career titles. Elsewhere in Italy, Diego Milito scored a penalty in Genoa’s 2-2 draw with Chievo Verona, and Maxi Pellegrino got the game’s final goal just before half time for Atalanta in their 2-2 draw away to Juventus.
In the Bundesliga, former Instituto de Córdoba and Lanús man Diego Klimowicz scored VfL Bochum’s second goal in their 2-0 win at home Eintracht Frankfurt, whilst Martín Demichelis‘s Bayern München side got a 2-2 draw away to Hoffenheim which leaves them needing leaders Wolfsburg to slip up on the last day, which will be on Saturday. They have to hope Wolfsburg drop points at home to Werder Bremen, and beat Stuttgart themselves with a hefty goal difference swing into the bargain, to have a chance. Given that Stuttgart are in exactly the same position – tied with Bayern on 64 points, two behind the leaders – I know which match I’ll be watching this weekend.
In Portugal, Porto continued the title celebrations with a pair of braces from their Argentine strikers Ernesto Farías and Lisandro López, each scoring twice on Saturday in a 4-1 away win over Trofense. On Sunday, Ángel Di María scored Benfica’s second in the 13th minute as they won 3-1 away to Braga.
In Brazil on Saturday, Germán Herrera continued his good goalscoring form for Grêmio, but a last-minute penalty saw to it that they lost 2-1 to Atlético Mineiro anyway in the second round of the national championship, whilst their Porto Alegre city rivals Internacional won 2-0 at home to Palmeiras with Andrés D’Alessandro confirming the destination of the points in the final minute with the game’s second goal.
And in Mexico the playoffs have arrived, and the final four are in action. Pachuca, who’ve been in top form all season, had their two-legged semi-final against newly-promoted Jaguares de Chiapas, and are in the final after a 5-1 aggregate victory. Sunday’s second leg saw a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Gabriel Caballero and Cristian Giménez (who also set up Caballero’s opener), the latter a rocket of a free kick.
This production was brought to you, as ever, in collaboration with Our Man In Mexico, Tom Clark