Lionel Messi returned to goalscoring form for Barcelona, whilst Carlos Tevez simply returned for Manchester City – and scored as well. Gonzalo Higuaín got another two for Real Madrid, Lisandro López won a match for Lyon and in Serie A, whilst Diego Milito scored his fifteenth of the season, Catania only had seven Argentines in their starting lineup this week. Oh, and Ángel Di María scored a hat trick. All this and more to come, as well as the squad for the friendly against Germany on Wednesday night…
In England, Manchester City visited Chelsea in a match crucial to both side’s ambitions – Chelsea’s of pushing for the league title and City’s of securing fourth spot and European Cup qualification – and Carlos Tevez, on his return from Buenos Aires where he’d been making sure his newly-born premature daughter Katie was okay, scored twice to give Roberto Mancini’s men a 4-2 win. It was the first time they’ve scored so much as once at Stamford Bridge in over a decade, and Tevez’s first in particular was a masterpiece of determination to make things happen. On Sunday, Maxi Rodríguez set up Fernando Torres for the winner in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers.
La Liga saw two crucial Argentine interventions from the two sides at the top of the table. Lionel Messi scored in 38th minute for Barcelona, helping them to a 2-1 win over Malaga to keep the Catalán side top, shortly after Gonzalo Higuaín had got the first two for Real Madrid in their 5-1 battering of Tenerife. There was also a tale of courage for one of the sides a little further back – Sergio Agüero felt a twinge and signalled to the Atlético de Madrid bench that he needed to come off, but before they could make the change he’d surged into the box, won a corner, and converted it with a header to put his side into a 2-1 lead. Job done, he was subbed and they went on to win 4-1.
Tenerife 1 – 5 Real Madrid (Higuaín first and second, and yes they are different goals)
Licha López got the only goal of the game after nine minutes in France as Lyon beat Nice 1-0. It was his tenth goal in the league since arriving in Ligue Un from Porto at the start of the season. The next day, Olympique Marseilles took on Paris Saint Germain, and after a rush down the left wing Gabriel Heinze sent in a cross which the opposing ‘keeper was unable to keep hold of. Ghosting late into the box, Luis González finished it off to make it 2-0; Marseilles went on to win 3-0. In the Dutch Eredivisie, Sergio Romero kept a clean sheet for AZ Alkmaar as they cruised to a 3-0 win over Vitesse Arnhem. Romero’s been named by Diego Maradona in the squad for the upcoming friendly with Germany, so a decent performance from one at least of his goalkeepers should provide a little calm behind a dodgy rearguard.
In Serie A, Catania fielded just the seven Argentines on Saturday after last weekend saw eight Argentine starters. Whilst the selección‘s other goalkeeper this week, Mariano Andújar, kept a clean sheet at one end, two of his countrymen provided goals at the other: Adrián Ricchiuti, a former Lanús youth player, got the first and Cristian Llama, formerly of Arsenal, the second in a 4-0 win over Bari. Sunday saw Diego Milito get his fifteenth goal of the league season in Inter’s 3-2 win away to Udinese, whilst Javier Pastore helped Palermo to a 2-0 win away to Juventus which takes the Sicilian club up to third in the table.
Catania 4 – 0 Bari (Ricchiutti first; Llama second)
The performance of the weekend surely goes to Ángel Di María though. The Benfica wide man, thought to be interesting a number of clubs in Europe’s bigger leagues, continued an impressive run of form since the turn of the year as he scored three (and had what should have been an opener wrongly disallowed for offside) against Leixões – proud owners of surely the finest badge in European club football – in a 4-0 win which lifted the Lisbon club to the top of the table.
Leixões 0 – 4 Benfica (Di María has the ‘first’ disallowed, then scores the second, third and fourth goals)
Next, birthday boy Tom Clark’s here as usual to fill us on the action from Mexico…
The eighth week of the Mexican torneo saw Chivas of Guadalajara – the sole club to employ only native players (one of whom, the wonderful young striker Javier ‘Chicharrito‘ Hernández, promises to be heard from in South Africa) continuing their phenomenal start to the season and holding down the superlíder position, with a general scrap ongoing for the positions below.
On Saturday February 27 Pumas (UNAM) scored an impressive 3-0 away win at Pachuca, with the second goal coming from Martín Bravo, who in recent weeks has been en fuego for the Universitarios. On the same day Emmanuel Villa of Cruz Azul, leading goalscorer of the ’09 Apertura, finally broke into the Clausura scoring column on the front end of a brisk combination play with his countryman Christian ‘Chaco‘ Giménez. Meanwhile the surprise club of the campaign, Querétaro, playing at home, secured a 1-1 draw with Santos on the strength of an alert headed goal by Julio Cesar Laffitigue.
Playing on their home pitch did little to help Tigres of Nueva León avoid a 3-0 trouncing at the hands of Morelia, whose final tally was a golazo by the crafty veteran Gabi Pereyra. But Tigres’ regiomontaña neighbours Monterrey fared better, defeating Atlante 1-0 on an Osvaldo David Martínez goal provided by Neri Cardozo, he of the piratical black headband and opportunistic grafting instincts.
Tigres 0 – 3 Monarcas Morelia (Pereyra scoring third)
On Sunday the 28th, América, struggling badly with a run of injuries (of which the shooting of Salvador Cabañas was the worst, yet only the first), managed to pull out their first away win since August 22, over ten-man Estudiantes Tecos of Guadalajara, on the strength of sheer desperation effort by Daniel ‘Rolfi‘ Montenegro; with the match deadlocked at 1-1 in the last breath of stoppage time, Rolfi fought his way to the end line and lifted a perfect centering pass into the heart of the area, where Daniel Márquez nodded down the winner.
And finally, it’s being posted a little late but the squad for the friendly this Wednesday night against Germany is here. Maradona claims to have already made up his mind on 90% of his team (but then he also claims that Javier Mascherano, Juan Sebastián Verón and Lionel Messi are the only definites, which makes you wonder), so this could well be a strong indicator as to what the final World Cup squad will resemble. That being said, it’s Diego Maradona we’re talking about. So, y’know.
Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands)
Mariano Andújar (Catania, Italy)
Gabriel Heinze (Olympique Marseilles, France)
Martín Demichelis (Bayern München, Germany)
Nicolás Burdisso (Roma, Italy)
Nicolás Otamendi (Vélez Sársfield)
Clemente Rodríguez (Estudiantes de La Plata)
Walter Samuel (Internazionale, Italy)
Jonás Gutiérrez (Newcastle United, England)
Javier Mascherano (Liverpool, England)
Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina, Italy)
Jesús Dátolo (Napoli, Italy)
Juan Sebastián Verón (Estudiantes de La Plata)
Javier Pastore (Palermo, Italy)
Ángel Di María (Benfica, Portugal)
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona, Spain)
Gonzalo Higuaín (Real Madrid, Spain)
Sergio Agüero (Atlético de Madrid, Spain)
Diego Milito (Internazionale)
Carlos Tevez (Manchester City, England)
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.