He’s not in Argentina’s squad to face Portugal on Wednesday, of course, but Carlos Tevez celebrated his birthday on Saturday with a first half hat trick against West Brom for Manchester City, and on the very same day the world’s best current Barcelona number 10, Lionel Messi, got a triplete of his own against Atlético de Madrid. Sunday saw key contributions from Javier Pastore and Esteban Cambiasso in Italy, and this week’s Argentines Abroad also features the return of Tom Clark, Our Man In Mexico.
In England, Tevez‘s 26th birthday performance was the star individual turn in what was an astonishingly high-scoring weekend, with Saturday’s goal total across all matches the third highest on a single day in English top flight history. Tevez tucked away two penalties, and in between them put a clever finishing touch on a really nice team move, to give Manchester City a 3-0 lead over West Brom by half time, and the team comfortably held onto that during the second half.
Manchester City 3 – 0 West Bromwich Albion
In France, Lucho González impressed on Saturday for Marseille, hitting the crossbar in the opening period and playing a part in the only goal of the game against Arles, with a dummy that allowed Andre-Pierre Gignac to slam home and give Marseille a 1-0 win. Gabriel Heinze also featured, twice coming close with free kicks early in the second half.
Serie A saw most of the action on Sunday, with Argentines playing key roles in three matches in particular. For Palermo away to Lecce, Javier Pastore was once again superb, scoring the visitors’ second equaliser of the match to make it 2-2 twelve minutes after half time, and setting up the final goal of the game for Josip Ilicic to make it 4-2. Meanwhile Napoli beat Cesena 2-0, with José Sosa tapping in the second goal in the 90th minute to kill off any chance of a late comeback from the visitors. For Inter, Esteban Cambiasso scored the final goal in a 5-3 win over Roma, in which the visitors’ Nicolás Burdisso saw red for a foul on Giampaolo Pazzini which also allowed Samuel Eto’o to score his second and Inter’s third from the penalty spot.
Inter 5 – 3 Roma
Saturday afternoon’s games started with Almería winning 3-2 against Espanyol, and a man got on the score sheet who hasn’t been mentioned in this little column before. Hernán Bernardello got the eventual winner in the game, and it was a well taken effort. After cutting in from the right wing, he drove a low effort under keeper Carlos Kameni. Before the goal Bernardello already had an assist, floating in a free-kick which resulted in the opener. Pablo Piatti and Leo Ulloa also started the game, and played their parts in the win. Meanwhile, Juan Forlín was substituted at half-time after picking up a slight knock for Espanyol. Jesús Dátolo made a late appearance too, but had little effect on the game.
The main story of the weekend was Lionel Messi though; he bagged a hat trick in a 3-0 win for Barcelona over an abject Atlético de Madrid side. The first came when he carried the ball forward, making a trademark darting run before cutting inside and firing low and hard into the net. The best thing about the goal was probably the three opposition players bouncing off each other in their attempts to get at Messi. The second came after he pounced on piece of loose play by Antonio López, and grabbed the ball before putting it away from close range. Poacher! The goal to complete the hat-trick will be the ugliest the little man might ever score, as he effectively slide tackled the ball to poke it into the net. Javier Mascherano was on bench warming duty again, nothing new there. Sergio Agüero was in the starting XI for Atlético, and was without a doubt their main source of attacking intent – though it was very rare we actually saw it.
Barcelona 3 – 0 Atlético: Messi’s contribution
On Sunday night, Sevilla and Málaga played out a dull goalless draw. Federico Fazio started, and played the full 90 minutes which was good to see as he’s not played a full game for a while. Diego Perotti also got 90 minutes, after being rested for recent games due to fear of a burnout. Real Madrid were next up, and it was a Sunday evening stroll as they beat Real Sociedad 4-1. Ángel Di María started on the bench, but came on when the clock hit 60 minutes, and showed some nice touches – one of which was a deliciously executed rabona style cross. Someone who did start was Ezequiel Garay. It was a rare start and he played the full game, never letting the side down. He had a few fantastic years at Racing Santander, and it’s a shame his career has stuttered at Madrid. Fernando Gago stayed on the bench all night, as he’s still in José Mourinho’s bad books after getting into a training ground altercation with team mate Pedro León.
Tino Costa‘s left foot. I’m starting to wonder if there are many things that are more magical in La Liga. The midfielder was in action for Valencia, in their 2-0 victory over Hércules and he delivered another moment of brilliance. This time it came from a free-kick that was around 25 yards out, and he struck it superbly into the bottom corner. Éver Banega also started and was only substituted in the 86th minute, so another good showing from him as the partnership with Costa continues to develop.
Tino’s free kick
A warm welcome back to Tom Clark, whose blog you’ll find here. He’s returning to fill us in on the action from Mexico.
In the first five rounds of the Mexican Clausura 2011 there has plenty of Argentine quality on exhibit, as ever – including no fewer than 24 goals by players born in Argentina.
Among the in-form clubs have been a resurgent Tigres, who lead Group 1 with 10 points thanks largely to the contributions of two superb veteran Argentines: the propulsive forward energy of Damián Alvarez on the wing and the skillful field-generalship of Lucas Lobos, guiding things brilliantly.
In Group 2, relegation-threatened Atlas have jumped off to a surprisingly good start, led in scoring by the veteran Alfredo Chango Moreno (two goals so far) to share group leadership on 10 points with San Luis and América; and there has also been a bit of a surprise out of the latter club, who’ve weathered a poor start (and yet another change of manager) to come back strong in recent weeks behind the steady work of Daniel Rolfi Montenegro in midfield and Vicente Matías Vuoso up front. El Toro Vuoso now shares the league scoring leadership, having netted his fifth after being picked out smartly by Montenegro, on this sweet 41st minute strike that tipped Sunday’s match against Querétaro toward a 3-1 home triumph for América.
Atop Group 3, meanwhile, stand Pumas of UNAM (with Martín Bravo active up front) on 11 points, and Cruz Azul, with ten; the Maquina Cementera have played the best football in the league over the past few weeks, featuring stalwart work by their great Argentine duo, Christian Chaco Giménez and Emanuel Tito Villa, who combined for both goals in seeing off Jaguares de Chiapas at home on Saturday 5 February. In this clip Chaco runs onto an opportunity well outside the area and seizes upon it beautifully for the opening goal (his second); and the victory is sealed with a wonderful goal produced out of masterful link play, the culminating stroke delivered by the head of Tito Villa (his third) following typically great left-wing service from Chaco.
On Saturday Nery Cardozo, with a goal and an assist, led defending champions Monterrey to a 2-0 home win over Pachuca. Elsewhere around the league, Damián Manso has been playing well for his new club, Jaguares, with one goal so far to go with the usual high quality and quantity of effective supply to his teammates. And Mauro Cejas, who came on strong toward the end of the Apertura for lowly Estudiantes Tecos, has continued, with three goals notched already in the new campaign, to do yeoman’s service in helping to keep that struggling club afloat.
After injury forced him to sit out the midweek Clássico defeat, Nico Otamendi returned to the F.C Porto starting line-up, as the Dragons looked to return to winning ways at home to Rio Ave. The former Vélez stopper had a largely uneventful evening as Porto grabbed an early goal before cruising to a 1-0 victory. Otamendi was joined by his compatriot Mariano González for the final 20 minutes. The wide man has been linked with a return to Racing in recent weeks, with the Portuguese press increasingly certain that his contract is unlikely to be extended beyond June.
There was the usual slew of Argentines on show as Benfica travelled to Vitória de Setúbal. Nico Gaitán, Pablo Aimar, Eduardo Salvio and Javier Saviola all lined up for the Sunday evening kick-off, with Franco Jara on the bench. Benfica took the lead just before half-time, and the goal was another all-Argentine affair. Saviola received the ball out wide, before delivering an inch-perfect diagonal ball for Gaitán. The former Boca youngster struck a first-time volley on his left foot, which flew beyond the grasp of Diego in the Setúbal goal. It was a strike of rare technique and precision, and capped what has been a fine week for Gaitán. The summer signing was excellent in the Taça de Portugal semi-final 1st leg victory at Porto on Wednesday evening, and after a patchy start, has become a fixture in the Benfica first team.
Benfica pressed for a second, and it duly arrived after 78 minutes. Jara, who had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes, drove forward, played in Maxi out wide and continued his run, latching onto the cross with a close-range scissor-kick. It was a fine piece of individual play from the former Arsenal de Sarandí man, who remains largely restricted to cameo appearances from the bench.
Vitória de Setúbal 0 – 2 Benfica
Finally, spare a thought for Andrés Madrid. After nearly seven years in Portugal, the former Platense and Gimnasia defensive midfielder was released by Braga during the recent transfer window, having found his opportunities limited in the last eighteen months. Madrid is undoubtedly used to earning a higher wage than most Argentine clubs could offer, but at 29, remains a rugged if technically limited option who may be of interest to coaches looking to reinforce for the Clausura.
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 Argentine football podcast, which will be returning later this week with a preview episode for the Clausura (or subscribe to it on iTunes here).
Photo taken from ole.clarin.com