Because I’ve had a somewhat disjointed week of deadlines not being what they normally are, Argentines Abroad is going up ridiculously late this week. All the same, I did receive the normal dispatches from France, Mexico, Portugal and Spain, so here they are, regarding last weekend’s league (and cup) action in each of those countries, including the long-awaited debut in European football of young hotshot Juan Manuel Iturbe.
Tom Clark, whose blog you’ll find here, fills us in on not one but two rounds of action from Mexico, taking in the round played during the international dates two weeks ago as well.
The seesaw battle at the top of the Mexican Primera has seen Pumas, Chivas, Tigres and Cruz Azul trade claims to the top spot.
Round 12 victories left Cruz Azul and Tigres in a standoff at the top. The match of the week was Tigres’ decisive 4-1 thumping of Pumas in Nuevo Léon on Saturday 8 October. This wicked free kick arrowed into the top corner by Lucas Lobos in the 18th minute put Tigres out ahead to stay.
On the same day, a 66th minute score by José Sand helped the struggling Xolos of Tijuana take a precious point away from a visit to Atlas. The night before, visitors Monterrey did even better at Estudiantes of Guadalajara, with Neri Cardozo coming up big for the Rayados. A clever triangular move in the 11th minute was completed by Neri’s neat finish. And what would prove to be the winner came from Neri’s precise set-up pass, ten minutes from the end, to Jesus Corona, who finished brilliantly.
On Saturday 15 October, Cruz Azul traveled to San Luis with the opportunity to seize clear leadership in the overall league table. But a defensive slip gifted quick-thinking veteran predator Alfredo Chango Moreno with a chance in the 56th minute. El Chango pounced, forcing the visitors to spend the rest of the match struggling for a consolation point. The 1-1 draw left the Máquina Cementera a disappointed second-place team, behind new leaders Santos Laguna, at the finish of Round 13.
The latest round of La Liga started with a triple barrage of games at 17:00. First to the island of Mallorca. Valencia were held 1-1 by Real Mallorca, and were without Éver Banega who was apparently feeling the effects of travelling to play with the Albiceleste. He was missed in central midfield, with his control and composure sorely lacking. Pablo Piatti played however, and still looks like he’s struggling to the adjustment he’s made going from relegation battlers Almería to Champions League candidates with his current club.
Real Madrid played at the same time, and one again Gonzalo Higuaín came up with the goods – another hat-trick. His finishing was outstanding, but once again he worked hard off the ball and made the intelligent movements of a top class striker. I can confidently say his third goal is worth watching over and over again. He’s now also scored more goals than Cristiano Ronaldo this season – the personal battle between the two for the Pichichi award is seemingly on. Ángel Di María did well; this contributor has castigated the young man over recent months but now time for some praise. He made an appearance off the bench and delivered two glorious assists for Higuaín to devour, while also displaying his endeavour and skills to much reward. More of this please Ángel!
Higuaín performance vs. Real Betis
Barcelona easily dispatched Racing Santander later in the evening, 3-0. Two of those goals came from Lionel Messi and the first saw him take over László Kubala in Barcelona’s all-time goal scoring ranks, with now only the legendary César Rodríguez ahead. He was everywhere during the game, linking play together, and also found time to get those goals. Pep Guardiola went with actual centre backs this week rather than stand-ins, so Javier Mascherano didn’t get any minutes.
Messi performance vs. Racing Santander
Real Zaragoza claimed all three points by beating Real Sociedad 2-0, and part of that was down to a superb performance by Leo Ponzio, who not only put in some solid tackles and interceptions but also managed an assist with a fine delivery deep on the right hand side of the field.
Sevilla managed a 2-1 victory over Sporting Gijón, though they lost Diego Perotti through injury. Perotti had trouble getting into the game before he picked up a thigh injury as Sevilla struggled to control the game. He’ll be out for a month. Federico Fazio got the last 10 minutes as a substitute but did little of note. Sporting Gijón meanwhile fielded Óscar Trejo, who after a few nervous moments in the first half on the ball gathered himself and worked well as Sporting got their approach play going. Trejo showed good strength and desire while nearly setting up a goal late on, but couldn’t alter the outcome.
Quite a quiet week for the Argentines in Ligue 1 this weekend. All eyes were focused on the island of Corsica on Sunday as the new boys hosted PSG and the delights of Javier Pastore. After the superb performances against Montpellier and Lyon the weight of expectation was on El Flaco’s shoulders.
His performance was okay, with some nice touches during the game but the midfielder was completely overshadowed by his teammate Kevin Gameiro, the Frenchman showing his predatory instincts picking up a superb hat-trick in PSG’s 3-1 victory.
The award for performance of the week has to go to the OGC Nice defence. The 3-0 victory over Bordeaux meant clean sheets for Fabián Monzón and Renato Civelli and it was the latter who set up the first goal for Eric Mouloungui. Civelli cleared his lines with a high looping header and Mouloungui pounced on the clearance, raced through on goal and applied to finish. Civelli picks up an assist although it is debateable how much of the pass he meant.
Winless Brest hosted high flying Caen and after taking the lead through Bruno Grougi unfortunately Santiago Gentiletti and his fellow defenders failed to clear a late set-piece and Thomas Herteaux fired a low shot into the net to deny Brest their first victory of the season, the match finishing 1-1.
Former Porto striker Lisandro López was not deemed fit enough to return to Lyon’s playing squad for the 3-1 away win against Nancy. The big Argentine forward could be back next week. Lisandro’s old Porto teammate Lucho Gonzalez has struggled to find form of late and it was no different against Toulouse this weekend. Struggling to show the creative influence that he had over the team at the start of the season, the troubles Lucho is having seem to tie in with Marseille’s poor form. A dull 0-0 draw with Toulouse means they have only won one match all season. Maybe it will take a few excellent performances from Lucho before Marseille find their feet again this season.
The past weekend in Portugal saw the Taça de Portugal take centre stage, and many coaches took full advantage of the opportunity to rotate. Ezequiel Garay was the sole Argentine starter for Benfica at Portimonense, with Javier Saviola on the bench. The Eagles were 2-0 winners, with Garay largely untroubled by the lower-league strikeforce. Saviola was a second-half substitute.
Porto travelled to Pêro Pinheiro, who last season were competing in the Greater Lisbon district league. The outcome was a predictably easy victory for the Dragons, who were captained by Fernando Belluschi. The midfielder is reportedly on the verge of signing a contract extension, and was a central protagonist in Porto’s 8-0 win. Also present was one Juan Manuel Iturbe, making his much-anticipated debut for the club after being kept under wraps by Vítor Pereira. The 18 year-old caught the eye with his close control and jinking runs throughout the first half, and was involved in two of the five goals scored before the interval. Unfortunately, Iturbe also picked up an elbow injury and was withdrawn for the second half.
Emiliano Insúa played 90 minutes in Sporting’s entertaining 2-0 win at Famalicão, and José Shaffer was amongst the União de Leiria side eliminated by III Divisão outfit Alcochetense.
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