It’s time for a quick roundup of the action from the Argentine foreign legion in Italy, Spain, Mexico and Portugal, as Lionel Messi found the net after four games without a goal, Chelo Delgado scored a fine goal in Mexico, and Rodrigo Palacio came up with an inspired – if fortunate – finish for Genoa, among many more highlights. Step this way.
In Serie A, Palacio scored the most spectacular finish of the weekend, a tenth-minute backheeled volley from a corner which, if certainly intentional, was slightly fortuitous when it actually dropped into the far corner of the net. Genoa went on to win the match 3-2. Elsewhere, Gabriel Heinze, Franco Gago and Erik Lamela helped Roma to a stunning 4-0 win over Internazionale, who featured Walter Samuel, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito in their lineup. Maxi Moralez scored in vain for Atalanta, who lost 2-1 to Palermo, with Franco Vázquez again coming on with around fifteen minutes to play for the Sicilians.
And now, over to our correspondents…
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Tom Clark, who blogs over here, is here to fill us in on the Mexican action from the weekend.
Argentine quality was on display all across Mexico in Round Five of the 2012 Clausura.
On Saturday February 4 the Rayados of Monterrey doled out a 3-0 punishing at home to San Luis in a match that went all one way after César Chelito Delgado, in a remarkable individual effort that showed off the technical efficiency and on-the spot thinking that have distinguished his decade-long career, baffled three defenders and then finished expertly for the thirtieth-minute opener.
With Cruz Azul’s stalwart front-line target-man Emanuel Tito Villa sitting out one of the more curious one-match suspensions in football history (the result of his honourably candid after-the-fact admission he’d scored on a handball), his compatriot Christian Chaco Giménez, the Cementeros’ veteran field-general, took up the slack, sticking himself into the middle of things all day and finally delivering perfectly-flighted balls turned into second-half goals by Jair Pereira and Javier Orozco for all the scoring in a 2-0 home win over Jaguares de Chiapas.
Meanwhile the Gallos Blancos of Querétaro, propelled by their influential Argentine action man Pablo Vitti – who made the opener in forty-seventh minute, and then scored a go-ahead goal in the fifty-seventh – looked on the way to a day of joy at the expense of visiting Atlante. Until, that is, Juan Ezequiel Cuevas brought the Potros de Hierro even with a sizzling free-kick in the sixty-sixth minute, starting the comeback that ended in a spectacular 3-2 Atlante victory at the death.
But that proved only the second-best fightback of the weekend in Mexico. Quite a bit more impressive was the one that came the next day – Pachuca’s amazing rally from a three-goal deficit, away to a powerful Toluca club that is always formidable in their high-altitude sea-of-red cauldron, Estadio Nemesio Diez. Man of the match Mauro Cejas started the Tuzos on the long road back with a thirty-fifth minute tally, and completed the remarkable turnaround with a penalty three minutes into stoppage time.
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It was billed as a rekindling of a special relationship, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic drew 3-3 with Mauricio Pochettino’s Espanyol, in an engrossing game. Master and student duelled from the sidelines, and created an open game that was by far and away the game of the weekend in La Liga. The only Argentine player on the field was Juan Forlín, continuing in his new holding role. He was strong in the first half, making several interceptions and neatly playing the ball into the more attacking players. In the second half however he was overrun as Bielsa switched up his system.
Real Madrid beat local rivals Getafe 1-0 away, in a dull encounter. Gonzalo Higuaín came off the bench late on for Madrid, but with the game almost grinding to a standstill in the late stages there was little to offer. For Getafe meanwhile, Daniel Cata Díaz had a clumsy display. He tumbled into Cristiano Ronaldo early on and was fortunate not to concede a penalty, and made several other mindless fouls.
Barcelona are still playing catch-up to Real Madrid, and a win over Real Sociedad was the only way. They completed that task, and came away 2-0 victors. It speaks volumes for Lionel Messi that on an off night he superbly assisted, and scored a goal himself. He did have one of those nights though, and was selfish in certain aspects of his approach play, tending to make the incorrect decision. He balanced that out with had flashes of brilliance, twisting La Real’s defenders in all different directions. Javier Mascherano featured in defence, and after a faultless first half he lost focus in the second. His positioning was slack, and he misjudged tackles on a few occasions.
Messi full performance v Real Sociedad
On Sunday Villarreal picked up a huge three points on their travels to beat Sevilla 2-1. It was a tense game, and it showed as much of the attacking play was fractured throughout. As ever, Gonzalo Rodríguez and Mateo Mussachio paired up in central defence, and rarely put a foot wrong. They dealt well with Sevilla’s attacks competently, remaining strong in the air but also quick in the tackle on the ground. Sevilla fielded Federico Fazio, and he had a fantastic chance to score as the first half closed out, but blazed his effort over the bar. In his usual job as a centre back he had a good game, making several interceptions and also stepping out of the backline well, feeding the midfield.
Diego Simeone continued his impressive start to life with Atlético Madrid, guiding his side to a well earned point against Valencia in a 0-0 draw. El Cholo barked out his orders from the touchline, and was an image of energy, urging his side on. They didn’t let him down, and continued to make progress as a unit. Eduardo Salvio was introduced to try and find some cutting edge, but couldn’t get on the ball enough. For Valencia, Tino Costa found it tough going in central midfield, and didn’t at any point look to influence his side going forward. Pablo Piatti started, and was taken off with 20 minutes to go, but Valencia were so poor in attack he was bypassed too often.
In the final game of the round, Granada beat Málaga 2-1. For the former, Franco Jara featured and as ever this season, with him in the team Granada are a more balanced outfit. He got on the ball often, and moved it well, keeping attacks flowing. Martín Demichelis had another night to forget, and was found wanting positionally as Granada swarmed upon the Málaga area, and he showed terrible decision making to hack down Brazilian youngster Henrique. For his troubles, Demichelis earned a red, for what was a vicious lunge. Diego Buonanotte also started for Málaga, but rarely got on the ball, and remained on the periphery before being withdrawn.
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The Taça da Liga took centre stage in Portugal this weekend, as sixteen teams from the top two divisions battled (if that is the right word for a competition invented almost solely to provide extra clássicos for the nation’s TV executives) for a place in the semi-finals. As ever, there was a generous helping of Argentine involvement.
Jorge Emanuel Molina made his Vitória de Guimarães debut as the northern side slipped to a 1-0 defeat in their dead rubber at Santa Clara. It’s been a turbulent week in Guimarães – a financial audit revealed the club’s debts to be somewhere in the region of €19,000,000, so hopefully Molina won’t be expecting a pay rise any time soon.
Emiliano Insúa and – making his return from a long-term ankle injury – Fabián Rinaudo were unused substitutes in Sporting’s embarrassing 1-0 home loss at the hands of Gil Vicente. However, both were involved on Wednesday night as the Lions booked their place in the infinitely more prestigious Taça de Portugal final with a 3-1 win at Nacional; indeed, Rinaudo opened the scoring after eighteen minutes and added the steel the Sporting midfield has been lacking since he was stretched off against Vaslui in November.
Porto were comfortable 2-0 winners at home to Setúbal, with the scoring opened on 24 minutes by the returning Lucho El Comandante González. The former Huracán and River midfielder had his every touch cheered throughout, particularly the first-time curling left footed effort that flew beyond Ricardo and in. An elegant, unruffled memory of better times at the Dragão, Lucho’s return has noticeably lifted the mood. Juan Manuel Iturbe was an unused substitute, ending a week marked by yet more near-incessant griping from his agent about the youngster’s lack of playing time.
Ezequiel Garay, Nico Gaitán, Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola were all in the starting XI for Benfica’s routine 2-0 home win against Marítimo, with Garay and Aimar seeing out the full 90 minutes. All four delivered solid performances, particularly Saviola, who appears to have been re-energised after his recent contract extension. In other Benfica-related Argentine news, it appears (at the time of writing) as if Enzo Pérez is on his way back to Estudiantes, having returned to the country to be with his ill mother.
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