Argentines Abroad: another catch-up

Deadlines for previewing the final rounds of the 2011 Torneo Apertura have severely hampered my style this week, so without further ado here’s a quick catch-up in the main leagues covered by Argentines Abroad.

In England’s Premier League, Sergio Agüero got Manchester City started on the scoresheet, giving them a half time lead in a match they went on to win 5-1 against Norwich City. Otherwise, though, there were no really notable Argentine contributions during the weekend.

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In Serie A, Javier Zanetti saw the first red card of his record-settingly-long Internazionale career, bringing down Kwadwoh Asamoah for a penalty Udinese saw saved near the end. Inter had a penalty of their own saved minutes later, and Udinese ran out 1-0 winners. Also featuring for Inter were Walter Samuel, Esteban Cambiasso, Ricky Álvarez and Diego Milito. Ezequiel Lavezzi scored Napoli’s first in a 4-2 win over Lecce, with Ignacio Fideleff and Federico Fernández both featuring in Napoli’s defence. A Catania side packed as ever with Argentines lost 1-0 at home to Cagliari, and it was otherwise a fairly quiet weekend.

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Tom Clark blogs over here, and fills us in as ever with the goings-on in the Mexican Primera.

The semifinals of the Mexican Apertura took place at the weekend, and left two clubs still standing to contest the final over the week to come. On Sunday 4 December, Tigres of Nueva Léon qualified for the final by seeing off the Gallos Blancos of Querétaro at home. One individual play determined the result. Danger man Damián Álvarez, a menace to opponents of the Felinos all season, produced it in the forty-fourth minute.

Damián pushed the ball forward on the left wing, two defenders converging on him in response to the threat, danced on the ball a bit until the middle opened, and crossed in for Héctor Raul Mancilla – only to have hapless Querétaro defender Manuel Lopez Mondragon cut out the over-hit cross in the worst possible way: by heading it into his own goal. It was the only goal of the two-legged tie, and put Tigres into the final against Santos Laguna (who had qualified by knocking out Morelia in a thriller the previous day).

The first few seconds of this clip tell the whole story.

It’s been twenty years since Tigres last claimed a Mexican Primera title. Few who’ve watched them play this season will be betting against them this time round. But this is football, so you never know.

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David Cartlidge is a co-editor of Spanish Football info and is here to fill us in on La Liga.

Real Madrid stayed top of the league this weekend, beating Sporting Gijón 0-3 in a warm-up for El Clásico next weekend. Ángel Di María opened the scoring for Madrid, and did it in a special way. He pounced upon the indecision of Sporting’s Damián before making his way into the penalty area and cleverly slotting home from the tightest of angles with a neat finish. He then set up the second in some style too, showing great footwork before slipping a perfectly weighted pass for Cristiano Ronaldo to finish. It was impressive stuff from Di María and he was a threat all night. The same can’t be said for Gonzalo Higuaín who despite plenty of work ethic never got into the game properly. For Sporting meanwhile, Óscar Trejo provided several neat touches but was shut down by a strong Real Madrid midfield.

Barcelona won 5-0 against Levante, and also look good going into El Clásico. Lionel Messi was amongst the action after a bad weekend against Getafe last time out, and managed a goal and assist. For his goal he negotiated the offside trap before slipping the ball past the goalkeeper, while his assist came after a bright run and simple pass across the area to Alexis Sánchez who saw his strike gain a deflection go end up in the net. Messi could and should have had more goals. Javier Mascherano also featured and was strong at the back as ever, putting in and winning some crucial tackles while remaining calm and collected when moving out of defence with the ball. Very classy, and never a foot wrong.

Valencia continued their strong form with another victory, this time beating Espanyol 2-1. Tino Costa was at the fore of all Valencia’s positive work, controlling the game from central midfield, dictating as he has done so well in recent weeks. As well as that, he managed a goal, and an assist. The goal came from a penalty kick which frankly you’d just want to move out the way of, such was the force the ball was hit with. The assist came from a deliciously delivered front post corner kick delivery which Roberto Soldado headed home.

It was a horror show from Martín Demichelis as his Málaga side were defeated 3-2 by Real Sociedad. The ex-Bayern Munich man started his bad day oat the office off, by being in the wrong place at the wrong time as a header bounced back off the crossbar, hit him, and went in. Unfortunate, but his positioning on the next two goals was abysmal. Firstly he turned his back to Carlos Vela when the Mexican fired in an overhead kick, before finally he got turned inside out by Ifran who made Demichelis look foolish with a sweet dummy before slotting home. Diego Buonanotte remained on the bench as regular minutes are hard to come by for him.

Sevilla gained a solid 3-0 victory over Getafe on Monday evening, and to open the scoring was Federico Fazio. The giant centre back ventured forward on a corner kick, and met the delivery superbly as he contorted his body to place a header into the net. The goal seemed to give him confidence and he made several key interceptions and clearances to prevent any Getafe momentum. Diego Perotti started the game but didn’t last long as he suffered another injury after only recently returning.

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Ben Shave runs Cahiers Du Sport and is here to tell us about Portugal.

This week the Taça de Portugal once again took centre stage, and a total of five Argentines were in action across the fifth round. As ever, the lions share of these were in the red of Benfica: Ezequiel Garay, Nico Gaitán and Javier Saviola started for the Eagles in their 2-1 loss at in-form Marítimo, whilst Pablo Aimar also came on for the final 20 minutes as the Eagles sought an equaliser. Saviola’s penalty had given Benfica the lead at the interval, but a pair of wonder strikes robbed them of their undefeated record which stretched back to May.

Emiliano Insúa started for Sporting at home to Belenenses on Monday evening, and played a prominent role in their comfortable 2-0 victory. The left back surged forward time after time, stretching the away side’s back line to breaking point, and finally coming up with the goods five minutes into the second half. A pinpoint cross from the former Galatasaray, Liverpool and Boca man found Ricky Van Wolfswinkel unmarked at the back post, and Sporting were on their way to the quarter-finals.

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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