Argentines Abroad: Licha’s pearler, Messi’s insane free kick and more

It’s time to bring Argentines Abroad back in advance of the coming round of matches in Europe, now that my parents are home and my schedule returns to something like normal. Jonás Gutiérrez, Sergio Agüero, Lionel Messi, Lisandro López and more all scored at the weekend, and you can read all about it (and watch a few videos) here.

In England, Agüero hit Manchester City’s second in a 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, with Pablo Zabaleta also involved for the whole game. For their opponents, Mauro Formica played until the 70th minute, but didn’t have much impact. Jonás Gutiérrez also scored, putting Newcastle United 2-0 up against Wolverhampton Wanderers after just eighteen minutes, but he, Fabricio Coloccini and company were frustrated as Wolves came back to draw 2-2.

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In Serie A, Sunday brought a glut of Argentine goals. Ezequiel Lavezzi scored for Napoli in a 1-0 win over Internazionale (Hugo Campagnaro also played for Napoli, whilst the visitors had Walter Samuel, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito all involved from the start). Gonzalo Bergessio and Alejandro Gómez got on the scoresheet for Argentine-packed Catania, who beat Novara 3-1 and Joaquín Larrivey scored a penalty to equalise for Cagliari, who all the same lost 2-1 at home to Lecce. The star turn was Germán Denis, though. The big ex-Independiente man got a hat trick for Atalanta, the first of which was set up by Maxi Moralez, in his side’s 4-1 win over a Roma side who included Gabriel Heinze, Erik Lamela and Fernando Gago. The previous day, Rodrigo Palacio had missed a penalty but scored twice in open play for Genoa, in a 2-2 draw against Parma.

Atalanta 4 – 1 Roma

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And now, I turn AA over to our contributors, who are here to fill us on some of the rest of the world’s action.

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Tom Clark, whose blog you’ll find here, and who I’d like to wish a very happy birthday this week, is eager to let us know what’s happened in Mexico, and has a few highlights from AA’s time away.

Three rounds of the Mexican Primera 2012 Clausura having elapsed during our recent AA intermission, a few highlights from the interim stand out.

On the 11th February Mauro Cejas, looking more at home in Mexico with each passing week, put Pachuca on the way to a 2-0 home victory over Estudiantes Tecos with this 43rd minute score:

On the same day the country’s current powerhouse club, Tigres of Nueva Léon, notched a 2-0 away win at San Luis. HEGS’ perennial favourite Lucas Lobos showed his quality in the 57th minute with a very pretty first-time strike.

And on the 18th February José Pepe Sand completed an eye-catching set piece by Tijuana with a 51st minute goal that set the Xolos off on a 2-0 away win over Querétaro:

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David Cartlidge, co-editor at Spanish Football Info, has this to say about action in La Liga during last weekend…

Málaga had a convincing victory 5-1 over Real Zaragoza on Saturday evening, despite going behind in the first half. One of the goalscorers for Málaga was an unlikely source, in Martín Demichelis. Of course, with his height he’s always going to be a threat at set-pieces, and that was the case here as he rose superbly to head home from a corner kick. He didn’t start the game, but was introduced on 55 minutes, and as Málaga were on the offensive for most of the game he had little to do in his usual centre back role.

Espanyol, coached by Mauricio Pochettino, fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Levante. It was a blow to Espanyol’s Champions League ambitions, and they’ll need to quickly recover to maintain pace. Juan Forlín featured in his defensive midfield role, and had an average game. He saw plenty of the ball, as he moved it into attacking areas, but was found out positionally when Levante broke with speed and directness.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Club drew 2-2 with Villarreal in Sunday’s early game, in what was a thrilling contest in the second half. Despite falling behind, Athletic managed to come back and even take the lead at one point, but were eventually pegged back. Athletic tend to tire in games, but Bielsa’s energetic performance on the sidelines tends to get that extra effort out of his team. Gonzalo Rodríguez had a poor game for Villarreal, and had difficulty keeping pace with the game in more frenetic periods, while he also lacked strength in the air, something you need when facing Athletic. Marco Ruben started the game but was taken off just after the half hour mark, when he pulled up with injury.

Real Madrid scraped a 1-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano, and won’t look forward to returning to Vallecas any time soon as they were given a stern test. Rayo featured Emiliano Armenteros on the left wing, and he caused plenty of problems throughout, running at full backs, cutting inside with pace and linking play well. Real Madrid started with Gonzalo Higuaín, who will have much expected of him over the next few weeks with Karim Benzema’s absence through injury. This performance wasn’t Higuaín’s best, and despite offering plenty of running as usual he was rarely a threat in the Rayo penalty area. He was replaced with 15 minutes to go.

Valencia were beaten by Sevilla 2-1 at home in one of the big clashes this weekend, as troubles mount for the club at Mestalla. It was a poor performance, one which lacked little punch in attack. Tino Costa started for Valencia, and managed to get himself on the score sheet when the ball fell to him on the edge of the area, striking it with trademark force. Aside from the goal, he was one of Valencia’s best players on an abysmal evening, and was neat and tidy in midfield.

Tino Costa goal

Atlético Madrid hosting Barcelona was the headline game of the weekend, and it didn’t disappoint. Diego Simeone suffered his first defeat since taking charge of Atleti, taking ten games in all. It was not one to be ashamed of either, as Atleti were excellent on the night – defensively in the first half, and more for their attacking in the second. Also, they lost was due to ‘a moment of genius’ – El Cholo’s words, not mine. Javier Mascherano had a decent game for Barcelona, tackled well, and also linked with midfield well from his defensive role. He suffered slightly as did his team in the second half when Atleti piled on the pressure. Eduardo Salvio got a brief run out for Atleti, but didn’t have time to get into the game. Now, that moment El Cholo was talking about. Lionel Messi provided it, of course, and despite having a game where he was shut out due to Atleti’s strong defensive discipline, he’d have the final say to win the game with a quite remarkable moment. Just watch.

Messi goal

Messi performance

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Ben Shave, author of Cahiers Du Sport, is here as ever to let us know what’s happened in Portugal.

Benfica continued their mini-slump in form ahead of Friday’s Clássico with Porto, drawing a blank at Académica. Ezequiel Garay, Nico Gaitán and Pablo Aimar all lined up for the Eagles, though only Garay saw out the entire 90 minutes – both midfielders were hauled off well before the end of a poor Benfica performance.

Sporting secured their third 1-0 win in seven days under new coach Ricardo Sá Pinto, with the defensive comedy of recent months apparently a rapidly-fading memory at the Alvalade. Emiliano Insúa spurned a fine opportunity to open the scoring during the game’s early moments, but otherwise the former Boca man was a metronomic presence on the Sporting left hand side. Fábian Rinaudo was absent, after aggravating the ankle injury that kept him out for almost three months.

Thanks to Benfica’s dropped points, Porto went into their home meeting with Feirense knowing that a win would put them top of the table on goal difference. Lucho González was the sole Argentine starter, with Nico Otamendi relegated to the bench following a wretched display at Manchester City the previous Thursday. The elegant midfielder was his usual influential self, driving much of Porto’s creative play, and providing the assist for James Rodríguez’s second goal.

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And finally, Andrew Gibney, who runs French Football Weekly, reports on developments in Ligue Un.

With only a handful of Argentine players plying their trade in France, the chance to show you excellent moments of play are few and far between. Let us take you then to the Stade Gerland as Lyon played host to Paris Saint-Germain. The away side hoped to climb back to the Ligue Un summit with a win, and it looked a certainty when they went 1-0 up early in the first half.

Striker Guillaume Hoarau put PSG 1-0 up firing low from outside the box. Just over ten minutes passed and the away side were dominating possession and looked very comfortable, then Lyon sparked into life and scored three wonderful goals in a mesmerising six minute spell.

Bafetimbi Gomis levelled the score with an excellent volley from the edge of the six yard box, next up was the man known as Licha to put the home side ahead. Michel Bastos broke down the right wing, cut back inside onto his left foot, the cross was perfect and former Racing forward Lisandro López caught the pass beautifully on the half volley, such an exquisite touch from a striker who had not looked as sharp in recent weeks.

Michel Bastos would go one better with a super volley from the edge of the box. Although 3-1 up the game wouldn’t end there. PSG would battle from 4-2 down and break Lyon hearts with a 94th minute equaliser from striker Hoarau. It was easily the best game Ligue Un has produced all season. A roller-coaster ride from start to finish.

Javier Pastore made his full return to the first team, playing for just over an hour but creating very little as he looks to get back to match sharpness after his injury. Interesting that Carlo Ancelotti ditched his famous Christmas tree formation to accomdate El Flaco in the starting XI.

Elsewhere in France there was finally some good news for Nice as they managed a 1-0 victory over Caen with Renato Civelli and Fabián Monzón picking up a clean sheet, building on their excellent 0-0 with PSG two weeks ago. They just need to sort the away record now.

Lucas Mareque didn’t have the best game as his Lorient side fell 2-0 away at Valenciennes. There was a disappointing end for Mauro Cetto and his new side Lille. Clinging onto a 1-0 lead over home side Rennes they dropped their concentration at the very last moment and former PSG striker Mevlut Erding ghosted in at the back post to level the scores and save a point for 10-man Rennes.

Lyon 4 – 4 Paris Saint-Germain

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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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