The weekend just gone saw as many crucial contributions from Argentines as ever in the world’s biggest leagues, and a welcome return to form for the usual suspects in the Mexican league after last week’s no-show. With the usual contributions from Mexico, Portugal, Spain and France, here’s the latest roundup.
In England’s Premier League, Jonás Gutiérrez was sent off towards the end of Newcastle United’s 1-1 draw away to Manchester United, a match in which Fabricio Coloccini also played, but there were more positive contributions elsewhere. Franco Di Santo stabbed home a 90th minute winner after coming off the bench for Wigan Athletic, to claim a 2-1 win away to Sunderland which ultimately ended Steve Bruce’s time in charge of Sunderland. Sergio Agüero was lively, but ultimately foiled, during Manchester City’s 1-1 draw away to Liverpool.
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In Serie A, one of the biggest stories was between an Argentine and an ex-Argentine. Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo, who’s declared for Italy but recently claimed Argentina would one day ‘regret’ not having called him up, punched team-mate Erik Lamela in the face over an argument about the latter’s refusal to pass. Leaving the pitch, Osvaldo told Lamela, ‘hey, I’m older than you, and you’re not at River Plate any more. Answer me when I speak to you.’ Lamela’s reply, ‘Shut your arse and stop talking [out of it]. You’re not Maradona!’ didn’t go down well. Osvaldo’s likely to be banned by the club for a while for subsequently lamping Lamela.
On the pitch, on Tuesday night Hugo Campagnaro had an underwhelming game but Ezequiel Lavezzi was better as their Napoli side drew 3-3 with Juventus. Lavezzi was fouled only 13 minutes in, but Marek Hamšík missed his second attempt after being ordered to retake despite scoring with his first. Lavezzi helped put Napoli 3-1 up in the 68th minute, but they threw it away late on and were held to a draw.
Back to the weekend, Napoli had drawn 1-1 with Atalanta, for whom Germán Denis had scored, with Maxi Moralez once again a lively presence alongside him up front. Pablo Barrientos scored the only goal of the game for a Catania packed as ever with Argentines in their visit to Lecce. Gonzalo Bergessio and Alejandro Gómez both had chances, whilst Mariano Andújar wasn’t over-worked in goal.
For Internazionale Walter Samuel, Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso, Mauro Zárate and Ricky Álvarez all started, and Diego Milito came off the bench late on, as they beat Siena 1-0 away.
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Tom Clark has a blog here, and is here to fill us in on what’s happened in Mexico.
On Sunday 27 November, Argentine quality came to the fore in the return leg matches of the quarter-finals in the Mexican Primera Apertura championship. On the previous day, the notorious “curse of the super-leader” had struck once again as Chivas of Guadalajara were eliminated by eighth-seeded Querétaro. And on the same day, another heavyweight, Cruz Azul, fell to Morelia.
But on Sunday, true form showed.
Santos Laguna dispatched Jaguares of Chiapas 2-1 at home, completing a 4-3 aggregate victory. The decisive goal came on a 73rd minute tap-in by veteran midfielder Daniel Emanuel Hachita Ludueña, who celebrated, appropriately enough, by planting his green boot firmly atop what must be the flattest flat-top in football.
The same day saw multiple Argentine heroics on display at Nueva Léon, where Tigres completed an impressive 4-0 aggregate victory over Pachuca. The home club took the lead in the 11th minute on a Lucas Lobos corner headed in at the near post by Manuel Viniegra. Lobos then demonstrated his individual skills by taking the ball past two Pachuca defenders before placing a low shot into the corner of the net in the 26th minute. Damián Álvarez completed the demolition with a great solo effort in the 35th minute, jinking and shimmying past defenders and keeper to slot home a goal worthy of a tango master.
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Valencia won on Saturday evening, defeating Rayo Vallecano 2-1 away in a hard fought match. Tino Costa was again a key figure, and is growing more confident in the absence of the injured Éver Banega. Costa controlled the game from central midfield, and weighed in with a goal, with a well-placed drive into the bottom corner to give his side a two goal cushion. Pablo Piatti had ten minutes to impress as a substitute but did nothing of note. When he’s away from the field, Costa has been attempting to play pranks on Brazilians. Apparently Costa and Piatti woke up Brazilians Jonas and Diego Alves as they were sleeping in the hotel before last week’s European Cup game, and in retaliation the Brazilians emptied a fire extinguisher in the sleeping Argentine pair’s room. A celebration was thus coined, and Argentine-Brazilian relations are as strong as ever at Valencia.
The big game of the weekend was the Madrid clásico, as Real Madrid beat Atlético 4-1 at the Bernabéu. Ángel Di María started the game and got on the score sheet, making a late burst into the penalty area to smash home with Atleti defenders scrambling. Much of Di María’s approach play was clever, but once again he frustrated opponents in the wrong manner. The theatrics were on show from the former Central man, and he unfortunately completed more falls to the ground than successful dribbles. Gonzalo Higuaín made an appearance off the bench with 30 minutes left, and grabbed a goal. He pounced on some hesitant Atleti defending to retrieve the ball before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting into an empty net.
Barcelona suffered a shock defeat 1-0 at the hands of Getafe to close out Saturday’s games. Lionel Messi started for Barcelona and was central to all his side’s best moves, but Getafe kept a close eye on him throughout. Marked tightly, and given little space, Messi wasn’t able to exert his full abilities. He did however have a chance late in the game which struck a post, and could have levelled the game. Barça are slipping further behind Madrid and it’s up to Pep Guardiola to find some way of freeing Messi away from the shackles that are put on him more often these days. He managed that to an extent on Tuesday, when Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano 4-0, with Messi weighing in with a goal and assist.
Ariel Nahuelpan bagged another goal as his Racing Santander side were defeated 2-1 by Real Mallorca. Nahuelpan freed himself from his marker and headed home from a angled free kick delivered into the penalty area.
Diego Perotti and Federico Fazio both played ninety minutes for Sevilla as they came away from Real Zaragoza with a 1-0 win. Perotti had a few decent touches as Sevilla largely operated on the counter, though his passing could have been far better in crucial areas. Fazio meanwhile was solid in central defence, making several crucial tackles and interceptions as well as heading the ball clear on numerous occasions.
Málaga fended off a strong Villarreal challenge to come away with a 2-1 victory on Monday evening, and there were several Argentines featuring. Málaga started with Willy Caballero in goal, and he made several decent saves including an outstanding one from a free-kick. Martín Demichelis also lined up for Málaga and was fortunate not to give away a penalty in the early stages, as he clumsily hacked at a Villarreal striker. Other than that he made some crucial interceptions and headed clearances in the second half after looking hopeless with the game stretched in the first. Diego Buonanotte made a late appearance and chipped in with defensive work mainly with his side down to 10 men. Villarreal meanwhile had Gonzalo Rodríguez and Mateo Mussachio alongside each other in central defence, and both had decent games but unspectacular games as they were both pulled out of position a few times in the first half with the game played a high tempo. Marco Ruben was the lone front man for Villarreal, and bagged a goal after a superb finish from a tight angle. He held the ball up well throughout, and gave both Málaga centre backs anything but an easy night with his physicality and movement.
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Andrés Madrid completed the full ninety minutes in a feisty Funchal derby, which saw his Nacional side come within thirty seconds of victory, only to see a last-minute Marítimo penalty level the scores at 2-2. The midfielder relished the spicy atmosphere created by the occasion, and delivered a combative performance.
Benfica and Sporting met later on Saturday evening in what was billed as a Derby de Lisboa for the ages. The game did not disappoint and the four Argentines all played their parts. Ezequiel Garay was solid at the back for Benfica, his performance made all the more impressive given that his regular partner Luisão was absent through injury. There has been plenty of debate about the centre-back position for the national side, and Garay’s displays since joining the Eagles should at least merit his inclusion in said discussion. Elsewhere, Pablo Aimar and Nico Gaitán were their usual creative selves; the latter saw a gorgeous curling volley from outside the penalty area strike the post during the first half, whilst the former provided the cross for Javi García’s opening goal just before half time. Emiliano Insúa was on the losing side, whilst Javier Saviola was an unused substitute for Benfica.
Nico Otamendi returned to the Porto XI as the Dragons continued to reverse their fortunes with a more-comfortable-than-it-sounds 3-2 win over Braga at the Dragão. The former Vélez man has struggled a little under Vítor Pereira, but with Eliaquim Mangala still learning the Liga ropes, and Maicon having recently shifted over to right-back, he appears well placed to reclaim that starting spot alongside Rolando.
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Five Argentines started for Ligue 1 teams this weekend. Let’s just say it was a couple of days filled with varying degrees of success. We’ll leave the best to last, but we start at Sunday’s massive game between Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain. Pastore v Lucho; for me, Lucho won the battle on points.
There are plenty of words used to describe Pastore’s performances this season, unfortunately ‘bloody awful’ is about as nice as you’re going to get this weekend. A sub-par truly disappointing showing from El Flaco – the 48% pass completion stat says it all really. Marseille were not flattered at all with a 3-0 victory. Left in Paris for this week’s Europa League trip to Salzburg, let’s hope it’s for the best. Lucho González had a fairly good first forty-five minutes for the home side. He got involved and looked somewhat back to his old self before being replaced. Encouraging when set alongside the effort or lack of from Pastore.
Over in Brittany, Fabián Monzón took on Lucas Mareque in left-back versus left-back as Lorient pipped the southerners to a 1-0 victory through Arnold Mvuemba’s penalty. A great win for Lorient. Coach Christian Gourcuff had Mareque to thank for the victory. Twice the defender made game saving blocks off the line.
We round off this week’s action with the superb and stunning return from Lisandro López. The former Porto forward had been out since twisting his ankle against Montpellier way back in August. After a twenty-eight minute cameo against Rennes and the start against Ajax in the Champions League it was time for Lisandro to once again strike fear into Ligue 1 hearts. He opened the scoring after twenty minutes when he headed home from a superb Michel Bastos cross. It was left for the striker to complete the victory with just over twenty minutes to go when he cut back onto his right foot and out-foxed Auxerre keeper Olivier Sorin. Later Bastos would complete the 3-0 victory. Lyon are unbeaten this season when the former Racing man is in the starting line-up. His presence will be a sight for sore eyes for Coach Remi Garde. Could López return be the boost Lyon need in the league title race?
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