There wasn’t much Argentine involvement during FA Cup weekend in England, but elsewhere there was plenty to talk about. Another double from Lionel Messi – this time late on – was added to a Player Of The Year award for Javier Saviola in Portugal and a missed penalty for Javier Pastore in Italy. All this and much more, right here.
In Italy, the outstanding match of the weekend saw a negative contribution from Javier Pastore. His Palermo side took a 2-0 lead, and were leading 2-1 when he saw a badly-taken penalty saved which would have restored their two goal cushion. With 80 minutes from Esteban Cambiasso, and full matches from Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito, Inter eventually ran out 3-2 winners. The most notable Argentine influence, though, came in the match between Genoa and Parma. The game finished 3-1 to the hosts, who led by that score at half time, with three of the goals coming from Argentines. Rodrigo Palacio scored a penalty after a foul by Gabriel Paletta; Hernán Crespo levelled things up for Parma with a typically opportunistic finish, and then right before half time Paletta capped a forgettable opening period with an own goal to help give Genoa a lead they wouldn’t squander after the break.
Genoa 3 – 1 Parma
The majority of games this week were played on Saturday, and it was Real Zaragoza who kicked off the Argentine involvement this week. They travelled to Málaga where they won 1-2, and the opener was scored by Nicolás Bertolo. The ex-Banfield man was unmarked at the back post following a floated in set-piece, and he prodded home with his head. Leo Ponzio also featured, and yes… he got a yellow card and committed numerous late fouls.
Later in the evening Barcelona won 0-3 without ever breaking stride against a poor Hercules side that had previously shocked the Catalán giants on the opening day of the season. Lionel Messi bagged a late brace here for Barcelona, and his first came after making an instinctive darting run with the ball seemingly glued to his foot, before unleashing an arrowed shot into the bottom corner of the net. The second came a little more easily, when he tapped home from close range to finish a fine team move – it was one which could’ve been scored with his eyes closed. 22 league goals for Messi now, place your bets on how many he’ll end up with. Javier Mascherano didn’t even make a move from the bench. His time at the club has been bleak to say the least as we just pass the halfway stage of the season.
Hercules 0 – 3 Barcelona
Sevilla drew 3-3 in the final game of the evening against Deportivo de La Coruña, and while the Andalusian side left out Diego Perotti – who has been showing signs of fatigue of late – the game did see a start for Federico Fazio. The tall defender has had a torrid time with injuries, prior to which he was developing very well. He got 77 minutes in before being substituted, which was good considering his lack of game time lately. Lautaro Acosta made an appearance from the substitute bench late on, though he had little say on proceedings.
Sunday evening saw Atlético de Madrid suffer a 0-2 home loss to Athletic Bilbao. Sergio Agüero played the full 90 minutes but looked a little off the pace as he recovers from his injury. For the most part Kun has been the subject of the speculation about his future, though with the transfer window now shut it can all be put to bed – at least until the summer. Another ineffective performance came from Ángel Di María. After a bright start to his Real Madrid career the young winger is suffering from a slight burn-out. He was substituted just after the hour mark in the 1-0 defeat to Osasuna, and it would be sensible on José Mourinho’s part to maybe rest him.
Saturday night closed with Espanyol losing 0-1 to Villarreal. The bedrock of Villarreal’s defence was Gonzalo Rodríguez, who stubbed out any potential threat from the hosts. Marco Ruben also got another appearance under his belt for Villarreal, working well in the early going but fading later. Matteo Mussachio made an appearance late on, slotting into the holding role to provide extra protection for his Villarreal backline.
Finally, on Monday evening, Valencia drew 1-1 against Racing Santander, with the former getting their goal thanks to another wonderful left-footed strike from Alberto ‘Tino’ Costa. With the ball bouncing on the edge of the area, Costa set himself up to strike the ball with venom into the top corner. Few strike them sweeter than Tino.
It was Bwin Cup (Ed: A.K.A. the League Cup) weekend in Portugal, and given that Sporting, Porto and Benfica had all but sealed qualification from the group stages prior to the final round of matches, all three managers chose to field experimental lineups.
This precipitated rare starts for Marco Torsiglieri and Leandro Grimi as Sporting travelled to Estoril, where an insipid display saw them slip to a 2-1 defeat. Neither Argentine covered themselves in glory, as Sporting’s defensive line somehow contrived to step aside for Estoril’s attackers with worrying regularity. The pair of penalties that won the home side the match were entirely preventable, and on the evidence of the 90 minutes, neither Torsiglieri nor Grimi will be starting another game for a while.
Nico Otamendi was the sole Argentine starter for Porto as they travelled to lower-league opposition in the form of Gil Vicente. The former Vélez man was left standing in no-mans land for Hugo Vieira’s headed equaliser, although he could do little about Vieira’s second, which was enough to secure a 2-2 draw for the home side. Otamendi picked up an injury late on, and is expected to miss Wednesday’s Clássico against Benfica in the Taça de Portugal.
The headline from Benfica’s 4-0 win at Desportivo Aves was the contribution of their newest Argentine, José Luis Fernández. (Ed: who Hand Of Pod listeners will already have heard about at the end of last year) Starting alongside Pablo Aimar and Franco Jara, the former Racing man put in an excellent hour’s shift, before he was replaced by his compatriot Eduardo Salvio. Fernández provided the assist for Benfica’s opener, ran up and down the left wing, and generally put himself about in an encouraging if sometimes haphazard manner. Salvio put in yet another excellent cameo, creating two goals in eight minutes with his now-characteristic driving runs into the area. The Atlético de Madrid oanee has become a vital player for the Eagles, who will surely be angling for a permanent transfer come June.
Benfica 4 – 0 Aves
This weekend saw the A-League’s two Argentines go head to head as the Patricio Pérez‘s Central Coast Mariners took on Marcos Flores‘ Adelaide United in a clash that would go a long way to determine who would finish top of the table. And it was Pérez who outshone his compatriot in his best performance for the season by opening the scoring and setting up the Mariners’ second goal as they won 2-1 on home territory.
Finally, congratulations from HEGS to Javier Saviola, who on Saturday was awarded the gong for Player Of The Season 2009-2010 (no, I’ve no idea why they handed it out the following January, either). It was El Conejito’s first season at Benfica, and he adapted rapidly in helping them to the league title, weighing in with ten goals alongside his other contributions for the club.
You can follow the ins and outs during the build up to the 2011 Torneo Clausura, as well Argentina’s performances in the Sudamericano Sub 20, 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)
Photo taken from ole.clarin.com