I’ve been unable to get Argentines Abroad online so far this week, but my normal contributors have submitted their pieces as diligently as ever, and it would be unfair not to use them. So, if you’d like to find out what happened last weekend to the Argentines playing in Mexico, Portugal and Spain, read on.
Tom Clark blogs here, and is filling us in on Mexico.
In the Mexican league match of the week (round 10 of the Apertura), Tigres of Nueva León, playing at home to Jaguares of Chiapas on Saturday 24 September, looked to be coming good on the day when Lucas Lobos pounced upon a rebound and scored with authority and finesse in the 80th minute. Lobos was a happy man, and proved it by baring his scrawny naked chest. (This unusual display earned him a yellow card.) Ten minutes later, near the death, reversal of fortune lay in store for his club, however, as Jaguares’ Jorge Rodriguez equalized at the death.
On the same day, Argentines turned providers, contributing decisive assists in two close-fought matches.
Cruz Azul, trailing in the second half at home to overall leaders Chivas of Guadalajara in a high-pitched, emotional affair, came back to pinch a valuable point on the strength of a 62nd minute equalizer made by man-of-the-match Christian Chaco Giménez with a lovely ball in to the Brazilian Edixon Perea.
And Querétaro, at home to Monterrey, found unaccustomed joy when Franco Niell supplied the Uruguayan Carlos Bueno for the 59th minute chip that would prove a winner.
On Sunday the 25th América, moving on a from a long string of embarrassing debacles with a new manager and with fresh hope (yet again) in the hearts of their legions of diehard supporters, hosted newly-promoted Tijuana in the colossal Azteca. The kick off whistle had hardly been blown when all the tentative good feelings were blown away. To add sting to the insult, it came by way of the first goal ever scored in Mexico by an Argentine player whose name on the scoreline might well have convinced those not watching that the Águilas’ long descent has reached the stage of a plunge into a lukewarm hot tub. Though the home club came back to nick a late point, the tone of the day was set by this bit of easy work in front of goal by the Xolos’ Javier Yacuzzi:
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The game of the weekend in Portugal was undoubtedly Friday’s Clássico at the Estádio do Dragão, and there was plenty of Argentine involvement throughout. Nico Otamendi started at the heart of the Porto defence, whilst Fernando Belluschi was left on the bench. For Benfica, Ezequiel Garay, Pablo Aimar and Nico Gaitán lined up, with Javier Saviola named amongst the substitutes. All four starters were key protagonists, with Gaitán and Otamendi’s running duel a particularly entertaining side-plot. Porto were ahead at half-time, but Benfica levelled the scores soon after the restart. Aimar was involved, managing to thread a pass through to Nolito, who in turn set up Cardozo. Otamendi restored Porto’s lead four minutes later, tapping home from close range after a quickly-taken corner left Garay and co. snoozing. The former Vélez man has made a habit of scoring vital goals since arriving at the Dragão, but his well-timed run ended up counting for little as Benfica snatched a point late on for a 2-2 draw. The goal was an all-Argentine affair: Saviola swivelled to deliver a superbly weighted through ball, and Gaitán crashed an unstoppable strike beyond Helton.
Despite his crucial contribution, Monday’s O Jogo reported that Saviola (who will be a free agent come next June) could be on his way out of the club in January. The Porto-based newspaper cited a deterioration in both form and his relationship with Jorge Jesus; exacerbated by Benfica’s adoption of a 4-2-3-1 formation which has left Saviola on the bench for the biggest occasions this season.
Sporting made it four wins on the spin at home to Setúbal on Saturday evening, with both Emiliano Insúa and Fábian Rinaudo in Domingos’ starting XI. Both delivered characteristically solid performances, with Insúa in particular already set to be a vital cog in both defence and attack. Sporting’s winning streak has coincided exactly with the former Boca left back’s arrival, and his agent has already been singing the club’s praises, declaring that Emiliano ‘needed a club like Sporting, who have confidence in him.’ Bless.
José Shaffer played 90 minutes at left back for União de Leiria, as Os Lis slumped to a fifth defeat in sixth games, going down to 2-1 at Olhanense.
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Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao kicked off the weekend by throwing away a lead against Villarreal in a game that finished 1-1. Bielsa is still searching for his first victory since coming in at Athletic, though it’s not for want of trying. Villarreal featured Mateo Mussachio, who wasn’t at his best, as he made a few rash challenges, one of which resulted in a free-kick which led to Athletic scoring. His partner Gonzalo Rodríguez however was strong in defence, and handled the usually dangerous Fernando Llorente well with some clever marking. His tackling was also precise, as well as being dominant aerially. Marco Ruben made an appearance from the substitute bench to add more muscle up front, however he’ll be missing for the next few weeks after injuring his foot.
In another big game on Saturday, Sevilla narrowly beat Valencia 1-0. Diego Perotti featured for Sevilla, and was a thorn in the side of Valencia when playing his part in the counter attack from wide areas. He had some nice touches, and unleashed a few decent shots. One curler in particular looked to be heading for the top corner, only for a fine save to prevent it from doing so. He does have a tendency to run into blind alleys though, and was dispossessed a few times. Éver Banega had another solid performance for Valencia, dictating play from the middle and keeping his side ticking. He had 132 touches of the ball during the game, and completed 91% of his 102 passes – of his 14 long balls 13 were accurate. Tino Costa featured alongside him and was neat in possession too. He played slightly more advanced than Banega, looking to unlock a solid Sevilla defence. Pablo Piatti also started for Valencia but was substituted in the second half, with a largely influential performance in a game which was too congested and physical for him to contend with.
Up next were Real Madrid, and they demolished city rivals Rayo Vallecano 6-2 though did encounter a few scares. Gonzalo Higuaín managed to get the ball in the net twice, though on the first occasion was judged to be offside. His second attempt though was a simple finish after he found himself free of marking. He was removed on the half hour after putting a strong shift full of endeavour. I’ve castigated Ángel Di María in this column in recent weeks, and this game was the culmination of his torrid start to the season. He was sent off for two bookable offences, his second a needless intentional handball. Other than that his performance threatened to spark but petered out as usual, and though the determination is there from the ex-Benfica man end product remains absent.
Next it was Barcelona’s turn to respond to the question posed by Real Madrid, and they did it with authority. Led by Lionel Messi they overcame Atlético Madrid by winning 4-0. Messi was utterly ruthless to the point he grabbed a wonderful hat trick with his every movement being watched in awe – even by opposition players it seems. All his goals were taken superbly, and worked intricately – he even found time to drop deep and make the play. Once again less rambling from me and more video. Javier Mascherano was Mr Dependable yet again at centre back with timely interceptions and tidy distribution, and though he looked fatigued later in the game he soldiered on. One final point on Messi; he scored twice on Tuesday against BATE Borisov in the Champions League, equalling the legendary László Kubala as Barcelona’s second all-time highest goalscorer in official matches. He’s just 41 away from the club’s number one in official games, César Rodríguez.
Sunday was quiet one, with Franco Jara being the main Argentine involvement. He got a solid 90 minutes for Granada in their 1-1 draw with Osasuna and has become a mainstay in Granada’s first choice XI providing a flexible if unspectacular presence. He’s exactly the sort of player they need to gain more dimension.
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