Argentines Abroad: Maxi downs Chelsea, Gago’s brilliant strike and more (video)

As ever, there were a number of Argentine goals during the weekend just gone in leagues across Europe. Oddly, there were none in Mexico this weekend (for the first time since I began accepting contributions for this post!), so Tom Clark hasn’t been able to fill us in with anything. In England, though, Sergio Agüero and Maxi Rodríguez both scored as Manchester City beat Newcastle United and Liverpool won away to Chelsea. There were also goals in Italy, Spain, France and Portugal, and as ever you’ll find them right here.

In the Premier League, Agüero scored a 72nd minute penalty to give Manchester City a 3-0 lead over Newcastle, which was cut to 3-1 before full time. Agüero went close on other occasions as well, but was substituted with quarter-of-an-hour left with what City fans will hope is only a minor injury. On Sunday, Maxi Rodríguez opened the scoring for Liverpool away to Chelsea, in a match his side eventually won 2-1.

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In Italy, the first Argentine goal of the weekend came from Joaquín Larrivey, who pulled one back late on for Cagliari as they lost 2-1 away to Internazionale. On Sunday, Sergio Almirón got a 78th minute consolation as a Catania side packed as ever with Argentines suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Chievo Verona. Mariano Andújar, Nicolás Spolli, Alejandro Gómez and Gonzalo Bergessio were all also in the starting lineup, whilst Maxi López came on with half an hour to play. The two biggest contributions to the scoresheet, though, came from Germán Denis, who scored twice for Atalanta in a 2-2 draw away to Siena, and from Fernando Gago, who scored a fine low drive to put Roma 2-0 up in a match they went on to win 2-1 against Lecce.

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Ben Shave runs Cahiers Du Sport, works for the UK’s Supporters Direct, and is a subeditor at In Bed With Maradona. He’s here to fill us in on the action in Portugal.

A delayed flight back to Lisbon meant that Nico Gaitán was unable to join the Benfica squad for their Friday trip to Naval, in the 4th round of the Taça de Portugal. Javier Saviola and Enzo Pérez also missed out through injury. Ezequiel Garay and Pablo Aimar did start in Figueira da Foz, though they could have been forgiven for wishing that they too were unfit – apocalyptic weather conditions meant that the 90 minutes were more about avoiding pneumonia than playing football – luckily both Garay and Aimar succeeded in their mission, and have travelled (along with the errant Gaitán) to Manchester for Benfica’s upcoming meeting with United at Old Trafford.

After flattering to deceive for much of the season so far, FC Porto finally hit a wall at Académica, slipping to a wretched 3-0 defeat. Nico Otamendi and Fernando Belluschi both lined up at the start, though the latter was withdrawn after 59 anonymous minutes.

Andrés Madrid completed the full 120 minutes as Nacional required penalty kicks to see off Paços de Ferreira, having been 2-0 up after 40 minutes. The former Platense and Gimnasia midfielder appears to have found an ideal home under Pedro Caixinha.

With Fabián Rinaudo now sidelined for the foreseeable future, Emiliano Insúa was Sporting’s sole Argentine representative as the Lions hosted Braga in an entertaining encounter the Alvalade. After an opening 20 minutes in which his most memorable contribution was a comical collision with a pitch side photographer, Insúa managed to get on the scoresheet, in typically rambunctious fashion. Braga goalkeeper Tomasso Berni connected cleanly with a Matías Fernández free kick, but the ball ricocheted off Insúa (who was unmarked in the six-yard box) and in. Sporting ran out 2-0 winners.

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David Cartlidge contributes to Spanish Football Info. Guess which country’s top flight he’s here to tell us about?

Saturday

Villarreal gained a much needed three points over Real Betis, with a 1-0 victory at El Madrigal. As well as the goal, the clean sheet was significant given that Villarreal are basing much of their game now on defensive stability. Mateo Mussachio played superbly throughout, and amongst numerous tackles included a last ditch one to prevent an almost certain goal from Betis. His passing and reading of the game was also solid too. Gonzalo Rodríguez was alongside him as usual, and he also put in a strong performance with key blocks and tackles. A lot of responsibility is on Marco Ruben’s shoulders at Villarreal given recent injuries in attack, and he provided a smart assist with a swivel and turn to find Borja Valero who chipped the keeper delightfully for the game’s only goal.

Barcelona put in another routine victory this weekend, with a 4-0 despatching of Real Zaragoza. Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano were whisked away in a taxi to Barcelona’s medical centre for tests as soon as their plane it the tarmac following international duty, and only the former made it to this game. Messi drew on his vast reserves of energy to put in a strong performance that was bright considering the travelling. His trademark dalliances with the ball, and sharp passing, were visible in a performance that was only let down by his finishing. He could have had five or six, but settled for just the one with a neat run and cool finish.

Real Madrid beat Valencia in a 2-3 thriller at Mestalla, which was by far and away the game of the weekend. Unfortunately several Argentine stars missed out on this one, so there were few remaining. Tino Costa lined up for Valencia, and looked a little lost at times as Madrid dominated central midfield areas. One long distance shot he had gone close, and he made a few decent passes but other than that failed to impress. Gonzalo Higuaín came on for Real Madrid with 15 minutes left, but with his side up against it in the closing stages he made no impact on the game.

Sunday

Sporting Gijón won 2-1 against Getafe thanks a to a late winner, but to get them back into the game after going behind, Óscar Trejo netted his first goal for the club. A poor clearance out of defence by Miguel Ángel Moyà saw the ball fall to Trejo who rifled home into an open net through a mix of players. Trejo’s performance was impressive all afternoon linking the midfield and attack with smart runs and slick passing. The 24-year old has been in great form since joining from Rayo Vallecano.

Marcelo Bielsa’s impressive reign at Athletic Bilbao continues, and he’s now guided the team to eleven games undefeated in all competitions. An impressive 2-1 victory at Sevilla was testament to the character and belief the side have instilled in them by El Loco. As if Bielsa couldn’t endear himself more to the Basque locals, he took time at the end of a training session last week to train a few local children, and have a general lark around with them. Bless. Sevilla fielded Federico Fazio, who was poor all evening, and looked confused by Athletic’s vibrancy in attack. Diego Perotti returned from injury and despite a few bright glimpses of his talent, looked off the pace unsurprisingly.

Monday

Málaga were in action on Monday evening as they beat Racing Santander 1-3. Part of the winning team was Martín Demichelis, and the centre back was particularly dominant in his aerial duels, and on one particular occasion made a superb last ditch clearance to prevent a goal. Other than that he intercepted well.

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Andrew Gibney is the editor of the French Football Weekly podcast, and keeps us up to date with the action in Ligue Un.

We start this week’s round-up in the South of France where OGC Nice were looking for a positive start under new manager Rene Marsiglia. Eric Roy moved upstairs in midweek to his new Director of Football role and Marsiglia moved up from assistant to first team coach. His debut couldn’t have gone any worse.

Not only did St-Etienne cruise to a 2-0 victory but Nice’s back four containing – Argentines Fabián Monzón and Renato Civelli – couldn’t have had a more torrid evening. Civelli’s poor back pass led to Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina rushing out and bringing down the St-Etienne forward, a red card and penalty followed. Then after Eric Mouloungui was also sent off for Nice, Civelli was there to cap off a terrible evening with five minutes to go as he charged two-footed into the back of Florent Sinama-Pongolle, the referee flashing the red card for the third time.

One plus point – it surely can’t get much worse for the new manager.

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Saturday night was no better for the Argentines at FC Lorient. Lucas Mareque was played out of position due to a hefty injury list hampering Coach Christian Gourcuff’s options. Mareque looked like a fish out of water playing further forward than usual and didn’t add much to the game. Gabriel Peñalba continued his comeback playing the last eight minutes. Also off the bench came former Gimnasia and CFR Cluj forward Sebastián Dubarbier, his 15 minute cameo saw him attempt three shots on goal. Good to see another Argentine making his debut for Les Merlus this season.

Marseille took on second place Montpellier this weekend. Montpellier’s 1-0 win saw them pull level with PSG at the top of the table. Lucho Gonzalez played the past ten minutes for L’OM, touched the ball seven times, and offered very little. It would be very surprising to see the former Porto playmaker in the Marseille shirt come January.

Finishing off the action in France this weekend is the €42 million man Javier Pastore. Heavily criticised for his club performances of late, everyone thought the game against relegation strugglers AS Nancy would give El Flaco a chance to get his form back. It wasn’t to be. Stunned by a second half Jean Calve goal, it was the away side who picked up the points. PSG’s first defeat of the season, and although Pastore looked dangerous at times it seems PSG are more a team of individual skill than a destructive cohesive unit. Pastore saw plenty of the ball and had seven shots on goal. It just wasn’t meant to be.

The longer this form continues the more pressure is heaped on the young man’s shoulders. It doesn’t help that next week sees the journey south for Le Classique against Marseille. A game in which heroes are made and reputations destroyed.

You can follow the latest news from the selección and Argentina’s foreign legion of players, as well as the domestic championship, River Plate’s first second division campaign in over a century and the ever entertaining/tragic/infuriating capers of Julio Grondona & chums 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. And remember to bookmark Hand Of Pod, our Argentine football podcast, or if you prefer you can subscribe to it on iTunes here.

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