I have had a very, very busy week indeed, which is why not much has shown up on HEGS during the last few days, but here, prior to the beginning of the footballing weekend in Europe, is a quick Argentines Abroad catch-up from Portugal, Mexico and Spain.
Tom Clark, who blogs here, is our Mexican correspondent.
The Argentine player of the week in Mexico was César Chelito Delgado of Monterrey, who had a blinder for the Rayados at home in a 4-0 win over hapless Estudiantes Tecos (UAG) to close out the twelfth round of the torneo on Sunday 25 March. Chelito scored the day’s second and made the fourth with a wonderful centering pass, in this runaway.
On the same day, Jose Pepe Sand, having a fine season for surprising Tijuana, led the Xolos to a 2-0 home win over Atlas, scoring the first himself (his seventh of the campaign) and making the second.
On the previous day, Emanuel Tito Villa saved a point for Cruz Azul by scoring (his seventh) in the tenth minute of a 1-1 draw away to Puebla. And in the capitol, visiting Tigres overcame home-standing Pumas (UNAM) 2-0, the concluding goal of the day coming from the inevitable Lucas Lobos (his sixth).
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Barcelona were up against a rough and tough opponent in the form of Real Mallorca, but they still managed to come away with a 0-2 victory. That man Lionel Messi showed no signs of letting up after his record-breaking goalscoring feats, and business was as usual. He opened the scoring, and a fantastic effort which cracked off the post led to the second. Generally speaking, his all-round play was excellent too, slipping others into attacking movements and being a nuisance for the opponent throughout. Javier Mascherano was a little shaky early in the game, but soon recovered his usual confident swagger. Neat with his passes, and strong but fair in the tackle – like Messi, business as usual for Mascherano.
Messi vs. Real Mallorca
Real Madrid found it all too easy against a limp Real Sociedad, cruising to a 5-1 victory. Gonzalo Higuaín was as industrious as ever, as he led the front line. He found some end product too, with a fine instant finish and an assist to emphasise his all round contribution to the team.
Things aren’t as rosy as they once were for Diego Simeone, and his Atlético Madrid side slumped to a 1-0 defeat against bottom of the league Real Zaragoza on Sunday. It was the second defeat in three games, and put another dent in their faint hopes of Champions League football next season. Eduardo Salvio was one of the poorest players for Atleti, as he managed to frustrate more than anything else. His decision making was poor, and there was no end product whatsoever.
Málaga meanwhile saw their Champions League aspirations take flight. A 2-1 away victory over Mauricio Pochettino’s Espanyol was key, as both sides are fighting the same battle at the top of the league. It was Martín Demichelis who got the winner for Málaga, when he pounced upon a loose ball to rifle home from close range. The former Bayern man was situated in defensive midfield, and put in one of his best performances of the season. He was superb in his defensive work, putting in key tackles while giving the ball to the more attack minded players adeptly. Willy Caballero was forced to leave the Málaga net early, as he suffered a nasty injury which could see him face a bit of time on the sidelines. Juan Forlín featured for Espanyol in his more familiar centre back role, after being played as a defensive midfielder for most of the season, and he was a solid performer there, winning most of his aerial battles and intercepting attacking moves.
Marcelo Bielsa watched on as his Athletic Bilbao could only manage a 1-1 draw at home to Sporting Gijón. The Basque outfit have seen a slip in form since their European exploits of knocking out a certain famous English side. Madrid daily Marca said Athletic’s players were victim of Bielsa’s ‘slave regime’. Go on, say it to his face… I dare you.
Villarreal remain undefeated under new coach Miguel-Ángel Lotina, and they gained a much needed three points in their relegation scrap, defeating Rayo Vallecano 2-0 away. Matteo Mussachio was in fine form in central defence, and looked confident despite his regular partner Gonzalo Rodríguez sitting on the bench. Mussachio put in some key tackles, and interceptions, as his side claimed a clean sheet as well as maximum points. Marco Ruben had an excellent game, this despite missing a penalty. He grabbed a goal with a fine bit of poaching as he headed in from close range, before getting an assist too, as with back to goal he put the ball on a plate for Ángel Lopez to score.
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Benfica’s season continued to turn sour at precisely the wrong time with Friday’s round 24 opener at Olhanense. The Eagles, who started with Nico Gaitán out wide along with Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola on the bench were held to a goalless draw, and slipped behind Porto and Braga in the table. Aimar put the exclamation point on a poor night with his sixty-third-minute dismissal – he had only been on the field twenty minutes. Much has been made of the red card in Portugal, but as this photo indicates, the number ten can have few complaints.
Sporting continued their solid if unspectacular form with a low key win at home to Feirense on Saturday night. Emiliano Insúa completed another ninety minutes for the Lions, who appear to gradually be mastering the art of the trouble-free victory – for now anyway.
Andrés Madrid made his return from injury for Nacional on Sunday afternoon, coming on for the last ten minutes of a comfortable 3-0 win at Beira-Mar. Elsewhere on Sunday, Nico Otamendi and Lucho González were among the Porto side held to a 1-1 draw at Paços, a result that ensured an already-tense title race will narrow still further. Neither Argentine distinguished themselves as Porto did the hard work in scoring, before squandering it late on.
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