Argentines Abroad is up late this week in honour of an infamous anniversary; it’s twenty years today since Diego Maradona played his final match for Napoli, failing a doping test after the game. Napoli’s current Argentine star, Ezequiel Lavezzi, scored to mark the milestone. In Spain, Sergio Agüero scored twice, and in Mexico there was a nasty injury for one of last week’s heroes. It’s all here in your weekly dose.
The lack of English mentions is largely down to Carlos Tevez having hit a bit of a quiet patch scoring recently, but he did play for Manchester City as they booked an FA Cup semi-final place with a 1-0 win over Reading at Eastlands. Tevez missed a couple of great chances, and will be hoping for better luck when his club travel to Wembley to take on neighbours Manchester United in the semi-final.
In Italy, Napoli were away to Parma and losing 1-0 at half time, but Ezequiel Lavezzi was key to their renaissance in the second half, setting up an equaliser for Marek Hamšík before the Slovakian returned the favour minutes later, allowing Lavezzi to arrow a low shot past the goalkeeper to make it 2-1. Maradona’s former side eventually ran out 3-1 winners. Elsewhere, Catania started with six Argentines at home to Sampdoria, but it was a substitute who eventually won the game for them. Against opponents reduced to ten men, former Arsenal de Sarandí man Cristian Llama got what proved to be the winner with quarter of an hour remaining in a 1-0 victory.
Parma 1 – 3 Napoli (Lavezzi assists Napoli’s equaliser, and scores their second)
With the title all but out of reach, Benfica made wholesale changes to their starting eleven against Portimonense, presumably with the Europa League in mind. Pablo Aimar and Franco Jara began the game up front for the Eagles, with Eduardo Salvio, Nico Gaitán, and José Luis Fernández (who has apparently been on a muscle-building fitness regime since joining from Racing) on the bench. The aforementioned personnel changes meant that Benfica were fairly disjointed, and were held to the first draw for over a year (yes, really) by the Liga’s bottom side. Gaitán and Salvio were thrown on for the second half in an attempt to inject some familiarity, but their contributions were unable to secure all three points.
With Porto also in midweek action, Nico Otamendi was again rested by André Villas Boas, though Fernando Belluschi was handed a start, and was the main protagonist in the first half, missing two decent opportunities and attempting to win two penalties for his side. Though he failed in all those endeavours, it was nevertheless a decent performance from the former Newell’s and River man, with Porto eventually running out comfortable 2-0 winners.
Sergio Agüero’s efforts on Saturday were in the inspiration behind Atlético de Madrid getting a 2-2 draw with Almería on Saturday evening, as he grabbed both goals and provided plenty of application elsewhere on the field. His first came when put through on goal by an excellent pass, before judging the ball’s flight well enough to provide an emphatic finish. The second came after receiving a pass from Uruguayan Diego Forlán, showing great close control before offering a drop of the shoulder and cool finish. Kun was everywhere throughout the game, and the energy up front was predominantly through his bursts of pace. Hernán Bernadello and Leo Ulloa played for Almería, and both got 90 minutes as they provided a good contribution to the draw – Pablo Piatti was missing, and with his energy they might have claimed the full three points.
Annoyingly, no embeddable video has been uploaded for Almería vs Atlético. If any readers know of one, please link it in the comments.
Ángel Di María got 60 minutes in for Real Madrid, as they beat Hércules 2-0. The winger perhaps didn’t have the endeavour shown in previous weeks with several man-of-the-match performances, though it could be he had one eye on the Champions League clash with Lyon this week, which he did indeed play a big role in, bagging Madrid’s second in a 3-0 win.
Nicolás Bertolo and Leo Ponzio both got 90 minutes for Real Zaragoza as they thrashed Valencia 4-0 to end the night’s games. You read that correctly, Ponzio did play the full game and wait for it, didn’t get a yellow card – incredible I know. They both had comfortable, if unspectacular games in what was a very easy win. Éver Banega came on as an early substitute for Valencia, but like the rest of his teammates just didn’t turn up.
The big game on Saturday night saw Sevilla draw 1-1 with Barcelona in an enthralling encounter full of incident. The opening goal was perhaps the fault of Federico Fazio, because when the rest of his defence pushed out Fazio was slow in joining them – playing Bojan Krkic onside to open the scoring for Barcelona. Diego Perotti came on as a substitute for Sevilla, and would have started had he not picked up a slight hamstring injury in training. When he did come on he contributed to the excellent impetus his side had built up, playing some tidy passes and offering intelligent running. For Lionel Messi it was a disappointing night. Inside ten minutes Messi thought he’d scored an excellent free kick, but it was ruled out for a non-existent foul in the area. Then towards the end of the first half an incident occurred which had the whole of Catalonia praying; Messi drove into the box and was met with a challenge by Sevilla goalkeeper Javi Varas before falling awkwardly. It’s very rare he goes down, but the little magician writhed in agony as the half-time whistle went. Javier Mascherano was with Messi the entire time, despite being on the bench, and he offered words of comfort. Messi returned from the dressing room for the second half, and showed no further signs of discomfort. His game was a subdued one, as the likes of Boca’s former Chilean star Gary Medel got close to him and allowed him little move to manoeuvre – though one special run did nearly result in a goal, after beating several defenders.
Messi vs Sevilla
Tom Clark, who blogs here, is an American watching the Mexican league.
On Saturday March 12, in round ten of the Mexican Clausura, the Águilas of Club América, flying high atop Group B, hosted local rivals Cruz Azul in the clásico joven before a lively yellow-shirted throng in the colossal Estadio Azteca.
The unabashed cementeros of Profe Enrique Meza quickly revealed their plan for the match, to attack down the left through Christian Chaco Giménez. The plan was clear to brash young Mexican Águila right back Miguel Layún. Terrorized by the great veteran, Layún drew a quick card – which set him back on his heels and made him easy game for Chaco’s wicked runs and crosses. In the sixteenth minute, and then, after the purposeful formula had once been proved successful, again three minutes later, Chaco lofted deadly centering passes into the box for the towering centre-forward Emanuel Tito Villa. The first one El Tito headed in, the second he stuck perfectly with his left foot, first time, to put the 2-0 victory away.
This serviceable video (brief, but best I could find) will do to show the work of the Argentine connection which keeps an otherwise maddeningly unpredictable Cruz Azul club a threat to be reckoned with in the current Clausura.
In other Argentine news, Diego Novaretti’s goal helped Toluca put away to a 2-1 win over Santos; a home win for the Diablos Rojos would ordinarily not be considered a major event, but after last week’s worst-in-history 6-0 embarrassment at the hands of Santos, this one was.
And the sad news of the weekend came when Martin La Rata Bravo, of Pumas, went on one of his raging runs against Morelia, and was tackled by the one defender in the league he was never going to be able to get by, the sturdy Mauricio Pampa Romero. La Rata was derailed, but the brave Romero fractured his tibia.
Pedro Joaquín Galván scored the opener in a 1-1 draw between Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Netanya. The goal from a free kick (the first shown) can be viewed here.
You can follow the ins and outs during the 2011 Torneo Clausura, as well as 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, or if you prefer you can subscribe to it on iTunes here.
Photo taken from ole.clarin.com