As I type this, much later in the week than normal due to the activity around the superclásico yesterday, Argentina are playing Brazil in Qatar. It seems as good a time as any to look back on how some of these players (and others) did in the weekend just gone. There was little impression in England, but in Serie A Javier Pastore was particularly impressive, scoring a hat trick in the Sicilian derby. Plus we’ve got updates from correspondents in Portugal, Mexico, Spain and Australia.
Pastore‘s hat trick was the headline Argentine performance of the weekend, and only serves to escalate the international interest in the Palermo playmaker, who helped his side to a 3-1 win over Maxi López‘s Catania which lifted them to 7th, one place and two points below Roma in the bottom Europa League spot. Elsewhere on Sunday, Mauro Zárate opened the scoring after just 15 minutes in Lazio’s 2-0 defeat of Napoli, and Internazionale, for whom only Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito featured among the Argentine contingent, fell 1-0 at ‘home’ to city rivals Milan.
Palermo 3 – 1 Catania
And now, over to the correspondents.
Ben Shave authors Cahiers Du Sport and is here to tell us about goings-on in Portugal.
Saturday saw a pair of substitute cameos from Argentines in Portugal. Firstly, Andrés Madrid was thrown on by Domingos Paciência as Sporting Braga chased a draw at rivals Vitória de Guimarães, but was unable to make much of an impact on the outcome as his team slid to a 2-1 defeat. Marco Torsiglieri‘s brief was rather different, with the central defender introduced with twelve minutes remaining in Sporting’s trip to Académica. The Lisbon side held out for a 2-1 away win, and Torsiglieri’s steady performance at the back ensured that the former Vélez man will continue to provide selection problems for Paulo Sérgio.
If Saturday was a day for other nationalities, Sunday saw the Albiceleste take a more prominent role once more. Benfica has become something of a home from home for Argentines, and the Eagles started with no fewer than four for their 4-0 win over Naval; Nico Gaitán, Pablo Aimar, Eduardo Salvio and Javier Saviola. A more nippy forward line you could not wish to have. The foursome, who were joined by Franco Jara in the second half, had a hand in three of Benfica’s goals. Firstly, Salvio played a pinpoint cross-field pass to Saviola, who centred from the edge of the area for Kardec to tap home. After half-time, Nico Gaitán took over, grabbing a fifteen-minute brace of memorable quality. His first was a half-volley from a good 25 yards, with the Boca youth product first to pounce on the ball, which had been parried clear from an Aimar shot. The second was even better – Salvio delivered a deep cross, and Gaitán, who had ghosted into the box, side-footed home on the volley. Great stuff from the little winger, who continues to develop apace. Jara and Aimar both had their chances to get on the scoresheet, with the latter striking the post, but it was Gaitán and Salvio who took the plaudits.
Injuries meant that Nico Otamendi completed 90 minutes for Porto in their 2-0 home win over Portimonense, along with Fernando Belluschi. The former was involved at set-pieces for the Dragons, and almost opened the scoring, but was thwarted by a mis-timed jump which saw the ball hit his shoulder rather his head. Soon after, Belluschi played a neat one-two with Walter, and watched as the Brazilian chipped Porto ahead. It was the outstanding move in what turned out to be a fairly low-key victory for the Liga leaders.
Benfica 4 – 0 Naval
The big game in Spain this weekend was held at the Camp Nou between Barcelona and Villarreal, which was an outstanding display of football at its purest. Both were sides eager to show their attacking zest, but in the end Barcelona prevailed with a 3-1 victory, much thanks to their magical Argentine.
It would be quite easily to devote a column solely to Lionel Messi‘s weekly exploits. Saturday saw Messi grab a brace, and the first was a thing of beauty – picking up the ball on the edge of the area he slid it to Pedro who returned the pass, only for Messi to give it back again and go, then on receiving the ball a second time he angled a delightful dink over the despairing goalkeeper Diego López. The second was a real poacher’s effort. Pedro shot and the ball took a wicked deflection into the box where Messi was most alert, and he prodded the ball past López once more. Matteo Mussachio again put in another solid performance for Villarreal despite being on the losing side, his timely interventions and neat play helping his side keep in touch with Barça that little longer.
Messi’s first goal
The other game of the night involved Atlético de Madrid and Osasuna, with the former comfortably winning 3-0. The game saw the return to form of the Uruguayan-Argentine partnership of Diego Forlán and Sergio Agüero. The latter of the two ex-Independiente men used his strength and burst of pace to charge past two markers before unleashing a shot which the keeper couldn’t hold, for Forlán to tap in. The second saw Forlán turn provider for his strike partner, as he clipped a neat cross back for Agüero to head home with ease. He was substituted with 10 minutes to go with what turned out to be a hamstring injury. As well as missing today’s Brazil friendly, doubts also remain about whether he’ll be fit for upcoming weekends fixture.
Real Zaragoza’s Nicolás Bertolo got on the score sheet for the second week running, as he met a set piece with a quality downward header which went in off the underside of the bar. Sadly for Bertolo, it wasn’t enough as Sevilla, including Diego Perotti who had one his quieter games, won the match 1-2. Gonzalo Higuaín claimed the only goal for Real Madrid this weekend, as they scraped a 0-1 win over Sporting Gijón in a hostile atmosphere. He pounced on the goalkeeper’s inability to collect the ball, and won a vital 3 points for his side.
Alberto Tino Costa had his best game in a Valencia shirt since moving from Montpellier in the summer. Throughout the 2-0 victory over Getafe his delivery both from set pieces and live balls was a joy to watch with that wand-like left foot. It was from that very foot which the opener came, as he played a one-two with Juan Mata and on receiving the ball chested it up and struck with an audacious volley. The Costa then assisted his teams second, with a beautiful dead ball delivery that was on the money for his Captain David Navarro to nod home. A wonderful evening for Costa, who replaced his fellow countryman Ever Banega in the deep lying playmaker role. Banega was reprimanded by the club midweek, after it came to light he had stayed out after a team dinner to hit Valencia’s nightspots. The pint-sized midfielder then took it upon himself to turn up late for training the next day nursing a killer hangover, which didn’t go unnoticed by Valencia’s coaching staff.
Tom Clark, whose blog is here, is our ever-reliable Man In Mexico.
The 17th and final round of the Mexican torneo saw a flock of clubs scrambling to secure, or improve, places in the liguilla which kicks off in midweek.
Pachuca, after a somewhat shaky campaign, have stabilized the ship in recent weeks, and on Friday 12th November clinched a liguilla spot with a 2-1 away win at Necaxa. The crucial victory came largely through the yeoman contribution of Damián Manso, who provided the pinpoint corner that made the opening goal (by Leobardo López), and then in the 17th minute grabbed the ultimate winner himself.
On Saturday the 13th another great veteran midfielder, Daniel Emanuel Ludueña, notched the only goal of the day as Santos, playing en casa, dispatched Estudiantes Tecos to cruise on into the next round of the championship fight. On the same day, Tigres de Nueva Léon, playing away to Atlas of Guadalajara, appeared to have succeeded in their long uphill struggle against the odds for qualification. Damián Alvarez supplied Lucas Lobos to give the felinos a leg up, and when they scored again, things were looking bright for Ricardo Tuca Ferreti’s men. But then back came Atlas, behind two penalties converted by Alfredo Chango Moreno (bringing this reliable scorer’s total to seven for the campaign). The 2-2 draw left Tigres hanging by a thread for another day, awaiting the Sunday result of their classification rival Pumas.
Atlas 2 – 2 Tigres
And Sunday proved a sad day for Tigres but a happy one for Pumas (UNAM), who pulled off a 1-0 win in the big house of América, thus eliminating the felinos.
Also on Sunday, in match that ended the campaign for both clubs, Puebla managed a 3-3 draw away to Morelia, with Puebla’s eighth minute opener coming from Gabi Pereyra – his ninth goal, making him the highest-scoring Argentine of the now concluded torneo.
And so now it’s on to the “little tournament”…
In Australia, Marcos Flores was the only Argentine in action as he returned from injury and played the full ninety minutes in Adelaide United’s 3-1 loss to bottom placed Newcastle Jets.
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