Argentines Abroad: 1st & 2nd January 2011

The first round of matches of the new year have featured a few Argentine-inspired flashpoints, as well as the news that Gonzalo Higuaín‘s season is officially over; an operation on a hernia will sideline him for six months. Carlos Tevez played well without scoring for Manchester City at the weekend, whilst Lionel Messi sat out Barcelona’s first match of the year. We’ve got all the latest from our correspondents as well. It’s a short one, and it’s later than usual, but here it is all the same.

The first Argentine goal in England came not from Tevez – who missed a penalty against Blackpool on New Year’s Day – but from Luciano Becchio. The 28-year-old Leeds United midfielder grabbed an equaliser at home to Middlesbrough in stoppage time to help his side claim a 1-1 draw. Boro’s opener, scored by David Wheater, had been set up by Julio Arca. In Manchester, playing for City at home to Blackpool, Tevez had an afternoon to forget, missing a number of chances including a penalty, as his side won 1-0. On Wednesday night, his team-mate Pablo Zabaleta was sent off after provoking Bacary Sagna into a headbutt very late on in City’s 0-0 draw away to Arsenal.

David Cartlidge contributes to Spanish Football Info and is filling us in on the weekend’s action in Spain.

Let’s start things off by saying no Lionel Messi this week; it will probably be the only week I can say that so there we are. The little man was on extended leave from Barcelona in which he spent time with his family back home, and he returned to training today.

Sunday evening saw his Barcelona team beat Levante 2-1, a match featuring some Argentine interest with Javier Mascherano starting for the Catalán side – albeit he was substituted just after half-time after not having any impact on the game whatsoever.

Gastón Sangoy had a full 90 minutes as his struggling Sporting Gijón side slumped to a 1-2 defeat against Málaga. Sangoy was his side’s biggest threat up top, registering a few decent efforts on goal, but he had little support from his teammates throughout.

The final game of the evening saw Ever Banega make a brief 20 minute cameo for Valencia in their 2-1 victory over Espanyol, and he chipped in with some neat passes to help his side claim a winner late on, as well as doing his defensive work. Espanyol featured Juan Forlín, who had another good showing with some important clearances out of defence, and his marking for the most part was tidy. Jesus Dátolo got a run out late on too for Espanyol, though when he was on the pitch he consistently chose the wrong option time and time again when in possession.

Monday meanwhile saw Atlético de Madrid held to a 0-0 draw against Racing Santander; despite the result it was a very special moment for Sergio Agüero, as he captained Atlético for the first time in his career. Just a shame it happened to be one of his quietest games of the season so far.

Real Zaragoza got a valuable 2-1 win over Real Sociedad in their quest to stay in the division, and Leonardo Ponzio weighed in with a nice assist after picking up a loose ball before slipping in teammate Florent Sinama-Pongolle who finished well. Ponzio also picked up his obligatory yellow card, and was substituted on the hour mark. Nicolás Bertolo also featured, and he tested the opposing ‘keeper a few times with decent efforts before also being substituted.

The final game of Monday evening saw Real Madrid make the short journey to local rivals Getafe, and pick up a 2-3 victory. Ángel Di María was man of the match for Madrid, as he tormented the Getafe defence – featuring Daniel Cata Diaz – on numerous occasions. Di María was involved in all his sides’ best attacking moves, as his direct running and tidy passing opened the opponents up. His main contribution to the game however, was a sublime assist for Mesut Özil who scored from a tight angle to double the lead. The only dampener on things was his theatrics; he won a penalty for Real in the first half after being hardly touched, and towards the end of the game seemingly pretended he was on fire by rolling about excessively as if to banish the invisible flames. A big piece of news concerned someone off the field, with Gonzalo Higuaín returning from Argentina awaiting confirmation of whether he will undergo surgery on a back injury. Before the game tonight it was announced he will in fact miss the rest of the season, a terrible piece of news as Higuaín was playing an integral part in things at the club.

Neil Zimmerman, author of Victory In Melbourne, keeps us up to speed from Australia.

There was no rest for the Argentines plying their trade over the New Year period as both saw action in the last round of matches. Patricio Pérez, who is returning from injury, managed sixty minutes in the Central Coast Mariners’ 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory on New Year’s Eve. His compatriot, Marcos Flores, was also on the losing side as his team Adelaide United went down 1-0 to Brisbane Roar in a top of the table clash. To compound the loss, Flores also picked up a mild groin strain which may see him miss Adelaide’s next match.

Finally, apologies for the lack of videos in this week’s AA, but YouTube is refusing to play any for me and as such I’m unable to check the quality (picture, sound, whether it’s got links all over it, etc) before putting them up on here.

You can follow the ins and outs during the summer break, as well Argentina’s performances in the Sudamericano Sub 20 in January, the country’s vast foreign legion and the latest news from the selección during the 2010-2011 season 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. Also remember to bookmark Hand Of Pod, our home to a brand new Argentine football podcast (or subscribe to it on iTunes here)

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