We’ve got a neat finish from Javier Pastore, Gonzalo Higuaín’s hat trick for Madrid, some lovely goals form Mexico and, um, a description of Jonás Gutiérrez’s brilliant solo effort for Newcastle United (thanks to the Premier League not allowing videos on YouTube) this week on Argentines Abroad, as well as summaries from Portugal and Italy. With the national team in action tomorrow, this is how some of the players have done in their final domestic commitments prior to the start of the 2014 World Cup. Step this way…
In England, the outstanding Argentine contribution of the weekend came from Jonás Gutiérrez in Newcastle United’s 2-1 away win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. Winning the ball out on the touchline near the halfway line, Gutiérrez took off like one of the greyhounds he takes his nickname from, rode three challenges and scored a quite superb solo goal to put the Magpies 2-0 up a few minutes before the break. Wolves got a late goal back, but it wouldn’t be enough. Elsewhere, Sergio Agüero left the pitch for Manchester City holding his groin after just under half an hour of City’s 4-0 away win over Blackburn Rovers, and is out of Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers in the next few days.
In France, Andrew Gibney’s on holiday this week, so I’m on Javier Pastore-watch. El Flaco scored the first of Paris Saint-Germain’s goals in their 2-0 win at home to Olympique Lyonnais, slotting the ball home from a narrow angle after beating his man on the edge of the box.
In Serie A, there were goals from Hugo Campagnaro, who got Napoli’s first in a 3-0 away win over champions Internazionale, Rodrigo Palacio with a ninetieth-minute penalty for Genoa in a 3-1 away loss to Parma, and Germán Denis, whose side lost by the same scoreline away to Roma. Maxi Moralez was alongside Denis in an Atalanta strikeforce that didn’t have one of its best days at the office. For Inter against Napoli, Walter Samuel, Esteban Cambiasso, Ricky Álvarez and Javier Zanetti all started. Ezequiel Lavezzi also featured for Napoli.
Tom Clark blogs here, and keeps us up to date with comings and goings in Mexico.
Two goals by Argentines in Mexico this week, in round 11 of the Apertura. Both pure quality.
On Saturday 1st October San Luis fell behind at home to Puebla. Their comeback (which would lead to a 2-1 victory) began with this wonder strike just after halftime by Alfredo Chango Moreno, a wicked curling drive from distance that deceives baffled Puebla keeper Alexando Alvarez into thinking it’s going out – before tucking into the corner of the net.
The following day, Sunday 2nd October, Tigres of Nueva Léon grabbed a point away to Tijuana (1-1) on the strength of a wonderful bit of rapid combination work between Damián Alvarez and Lucas Lobos. It’s very pretty to watch, as on forty minutes Damián loses his marker and threads the needle with a vertical centering pass in to Lobos, who knocks it down, turns and fires inside the left post.
David Cartlidge contributes to Spanish Football Info, and is Our Man In Spain.
Valencia got back to winning ways domestically after a defeat last weekend, as they overcame newly-promoted Granada 1-0. Éver Banega is in fine form this season, some say his finest, and he backed those claims up nicely here. Banega was decisive in the middle, dictating the tempo of the game as he saw fit. It’s a joy to see him play like this, and long may it continue. Pablo Piatti is still struggling at Valencia though, as he looks to adapt to the strong tactical measures forced upon the team. He’s learning a team game here, and it will hopefully click soon.
Martín Demichelis put in a solid showing for Málaga as they triumphed over Getafe 3-2. He made some key tackles and clearances, as well as being neat in possession.
On Sunday there was an important game in the Basque country, as the derby took place between Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao with the latter winning 2-1. The game was significant in that it was Marcelo Bielsa’s first victory in domestic action since taking over. His team showed all the attributes of a Bielsa side, playing expansively, showing plenty of vibrancy at a high tempo. It followed a midweek victory over PSG, in which Bielsa managed to nullify the talents of an in-form Javier Pastore.
Barcelona kept up form by beating Sporting Gijón on Sunday evening, 1-0 away. Lionel Messi had one of his quieter games as Sporting stuck to task well and kept compact in nullifying his advances. Javier Mascherano put in another quality performance from the back line, showing his now refined defensive skills. He put in some excellent tackles and used the ball well, not afraid to step out into midfield.
In terms of Argentine action the weekend belonged to one man though; Gonzalo Higuaín. Still dividing fans and media alike over whether he should he start ahead of Karim Benzema, the ex-River Plate man was in fine goalscoring form on Sunday evening to round off the weekend games with a hat trick in a 4-0 away win over Espanyol. For the first goal his running was key as he held his line and made correct movements, his second was a sensational strike after cutting across the centre back before finishing off with a cheeky dink over the keeper. A top performance and one which reminds Mr. Mourinho he’s full of goals. It should be noted too Pipita’s link-up play with Cristiano Ronaldo was lovely to watch at times. Ángel Di María was serving out a suspension. Espanyol started with Juan Forlín in defence but he had a torrid night with little protection and was on the back foot most of time instead of reading the game as he does best.
Ben Shave is the author of Cahiers Du Sport, and is here to let us know what’s happened in Portugal.
Benfica were comfortable 4-1 winners at home to Paços de Ferreira, with the usual slew of Argentines involved in the action. Ezequiel Garay, Pablo Aimar, Nico Gaitán and Javier Saviola lined up for the Eagles, and it was the latter who put them 2-0 up at half time. The former River man has lost his goalscoring knack of late, but a pair of clinical finishes from close range suggested that things may be looking up for him. A starting role undoubtedly helps. After providing an assist for Bruno César in Benfica’s midweek Champions League trip to Otelul Galati, Gaitán continued his excellent form with a bright, energetic display.
Emiliano Insúa and Fábian Rinaudo lined up for Sporting at Vitória de Guimarães, but the latter only managed 22 minutes before a straight red card bought his evening to a premature end. It was a rare error from Rinaudo, who has already established himself as one of Sporting’s more consistent performers this season. The former Gimnasia man mistimed his challenge on Maranhão, catching the Brazilian late and with his studs up. The numerical disadvantage didn’t prevent Sporting from running out 1-0 winners. Insúa was his usual industrious self, clearly eager to make amends for a Jekyll and Hyde performance against Lazio in the Europa League: the left back put Sporting 2-1 up with a crisp, low half volley from distance, but was cautioned for his over-exuberant celebrations and received a second yellow in the early stages of the 2nd half.
Nico Otamendi was the sole Argentine starter for Porto in their routine 3-0 win at Académica. The centre back had a quiet evening, with the Briosa offering little going forward. Fernando Belluschi came off the bench for the final 20 minutes.
Finally, a word for Andrés Madrid. The combative midfielder, who began his career at Platense and has also represented Gimnasia, was handed a short-term contract by Nacional last week, after a year spent in contractual limbo at Braga. Fitness will be his priority for now, but the 30 year-old could prove to be an astute signing for the Madeira club.
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