It’s been another action-packed round of matches around the world, with Argentines once again providing no shortage of highlights. Step this way for the latest on Lionel Messi’s fine weekend performance and some impressive contributions in Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Mexico from his inevitably less talented compatriots.
In England, two forwards of different statures came face to face in the second half of Everton’s 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers. Tiny little Mauro Formica was sent on for Blackburn with half an hour to go, and two minutes from time the towering figure of Denis Stracqualursi took to the pitch for Everton. Formica flashed a shot wide but the main action involving both players was a goalmouth scramble at the death, which saw Formica clear a Landon Donovan header off the line before Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson saved Stracqualursi’s follow-up as Everton had to settle for a draw.
For Newcastle United, Jonás Gutiérrez was quiet and Fabricio Coloccini had a game to forget at the heart of defence as Alan Pardew’s side slumped to a 5-2 defeat away to Fulham. The following day, Sergio Agüero was unlucky not to score, but finished on the winning side anyway in Manchester City’s exhilarating 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur. Pablo Zabaleta was an unused substitute in that match.
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In Serie A, there was another promising performance on Saturday from Erik Lamela. The former River Plate playmaker continued to star, setting up Francesco Totti not once but twice early on as the Italian took advantage of Lamela’s passes to fire Roma into a 2-0 lead over Cesena. They went on to win 5-1. Not such good news for Lamela on Tuesday night, though, when he was sent off during the 3-0 loss to Juventus in the Coppa Italia. In both matches Gabriel Heinze and Fernando Gago also featured for Roma. Also on Saturday, Atalanta lost 2-0 at home to Juve. Germán Denis felt he should have had a penalty for a shirt pull, but along with Matías Schelotto and Maxi Moralez, he was unable to make his presence felt in the Juventus backline.
On Sunday, Rodrigo Palacio scored twice for Genoa but to no avail; they lost 5-3 away to Palermo, for whom Franco Vázquez was an unused substitute. Palacio’s first came from close range after a goalmouth scramble, and his second from the penalty spot after a handball from Palermo’s Federico Balzaretti. Palermo’s second goal, which gave them a 2-1 lead, came from defender Matías Silvestre, who headed in from a corner. Ezequiel Lavezzi had a penalty saved for Napoli, who drew 1-1 away to Siena. Hugo Campagnaro also played, but Federico Fernández was an unused sub. And Catania’s glut of Argentines lost 2-1 away to Udinese.
Ricky Álvarez was again the provider for Diego Milito to open the scoring as Internazionale beat Lazio 2-1 in San Siro. Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti and Walter Samuel were all involved for Inter as well. Apologies for the music and the not especially good picture on this video, but the decent alternatives had been taken down by the Italian TV people.
Inter 2 – 1 Lazio
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And now once again I turn AA over to our correspondents.
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Tom Clark, who blogs here, is here to fill us in on the Mexican league.
Two games with significant Argentine action in Mexico this week.
The featured fixture of round 3 of the Mexican Clausura saw Cruz Azul held at home on Saturday 21 January by Pachuca. Mauro Cejas picked out Walter Ayovi for the Tuzos’ goal in the 20th minute, leaving the Cementeros labouring the rest of the day to put together a fightback – which finally materialised in the 85th minute through a familiar connection, when Christian Chaco Giménez found Emanuel Tito Villa for the equaliser.
On the same day lowly Tijuana humiliated Chivas in Guadalajara on the strength of a doblete – a 16th minute tap-in to kick off the day’s scoring, and an 85th minute header to complete it – by José Pepe Sand.
(The venerable rebaño sagrado responded to the shock of Sand-in-the face by putting the blame on football’s perennial usual suspect, firing their manager, Fernando ‘The Sheriff’ Quirarte, after the match.)
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The Seville derby finally returned after three years on Saturday, in what was the main event of the weekend. It was a game full of drama as Real Betis and Sevilla drew 1-1. It was no surprise that there was a sending off, and the recipient was no surprise either. Federico Fazio was sent off for two separate clumsy fouls, after getting caught up in the tempo of the game. It has been a problem of his throughout the season, as he lacks composure in tough situations.
Valencia only managed to get a point in a 1-1 draw with Osasuna on Sunday morning. Éver Banega had another poor game and will be keen to get out of this poor period soon. He looked lightweight in central midfield and was pinned back by Osasuna pressure for long periods. Tino Costa suffered in a similar vein, but he did manage to get an assist when his delivery into the box found Roberto Soldado who headed home.
Málaga welcomed Barcelona to La Rosaleda on Sunday evening, and perhaps wished they hadn’t. Barça were in spectacular form, and ran out 4-1 winners, owing much to a fantastic hat-trick from Lionel Messi. I’ve spoken of the magical one being a little lethargic of late, but his performances against Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey and at the weekend against Málaga, have both been pure class. Aside from a fantastic hat-trick, Messi created and linked play superbly, showing control, vision and intelligence in a complete performance. Javier Mascherano was superb too. Playing at centre-back, Mascherano moved out of defence competently as he does every week, as well as intercepting Málaga forays forward. Willy Caballero was in goal for Málaga, an unfortunate role on a night like this, but didn’t make any errors – he was just let down slightly by his defence. Martín Demichelis had a torrid time having to deal with his countryman Messi, though he did prevent several attacks with decent clearances.
Watch, and enjoy.
Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in a game that flattered the former in terms of scoreline. Gonzalo Higuaín was the only Argentine interest to report on and he made an appearance from the bench. He made a decent impact, providing a glorious assist with a perfect ball to José Callejón who wrapped up the scoring. Higuaín also hit the post before the full-time whistle.
On Monday night Villarreal and Sporting Gijón faced off in a battle at the bottom of the league. Gonzalo Rodríguez and Mateo Mussachio featured for Villarreal in defence, and despite having very little to do, were solid in their work when called upon. Marco Ruben was strong in his striking role, and with a young partner in Joselu alongside him, much of the onus was on Ruben to deliver. He held the ball up well and linked play together intelligently – more so in the second half after a quiet first. He managed a goal too, and it was taken superbly as he showed skill, strength and perseverance before finishing clinically. Óscar Trejo made a late appearance for Sporting, but had little impact on his team who were inept going forward.
With no league action this weekend it was over to the minnows in the Coupe de France to try and cause a few upsets. It was a mixture of good and bad news for Paris Saint-Germain against amateurs Sablé-sur-Sarthe. The 4-0 victory came at a price. Both Kevin Gamiero and Nene scored a brace but the performance was overshadowed by injury to Javier Pastore. The Argentine playmaker had to leave the pitch in the first half; Pastore looked to by holding his hamstring as he left the pitch. It was later reported that he had suffered a muscle tear and will be out for up to five weeks.
There were two other Argentines on show this weekend. Lucho González started in the Marseille midfield as they came back from being an early goal down to see off Le Havre 3-1 at home. Over in Nantes it was a bit of a struggle for Lyon to see off amateur side Lucon. Bafetimbi Gomis opened the scoring on the 75th minute and it was left to Lisandro López to finish off Lucon with only seconds to go as Licha made it 2-0 to the Ligue Un side.
A mixed week for the three Argentine players on show, and it will be interesting to see how new boss Carlo Ancelotti copes without his midfield talisman just as it was looking like El Flaco’s form was returning.
Andrés Madrid got a full 90 minutes in Nacional’s routine 2-0 home win over Feirense. The Madeira club have elevated themselves the comparative safety of mid-table in recent weeks, and the veteran midfielder’s steadying influence has undoubtedly aided that rise.
Nico Otamendi was at the heart of Porto’s defence for their 3-1 victory over Vitória de Guimarães at the Dragão on Sunday evening. The former Vélez stopper has seen his first team opportunities return to the level of 2010/11 following Maicon’s shift over to right back, along with Eliaquim Mangala’s loss of form; and delivered an assured performance for the most part. Fernando Belluschi replaced James Rodríguez for the final eight minutes, by which time Porto were already home and hosed.
After a spell on the sidelines, Ezequiel Garay and Nico Gaitán both returned to the Benfica starting line-up as the Eagles also ran out 3-1 winners against Gil Vicente at the Estádio da Luz. Neither had a great deal of influence on a game that threatened to pose more of a problem than was first anticipated, but the introduction of Pablo Aimar (in place of Gaitán) just before the hour mark turned the tide in Benfica’s favour. The veteran playmaker was involved in Rodrigo’s second goal, and two minutes later scored a beauty of his own; gliding into the box, maneuvering into space and slipping home. Javier Saviola was an unused substitute on the night.
Emiliano Insúa started for Sporting at Olhanense, and on a poor night for the Lions was one of the few players to emerge with any credit. His inconsistent delivery may occasionally verge on the infuriating, but Insúa never delivers anything less than total commitment, something which seems to be appreciated by the green and white half of Lisbon.
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