It’s been another interesting week for Argentina’s foreign legion, with Sergio Agüero picking up his ‘stupid’ injury, a nine-goal thriller in Serie A, the inevitable wondergoal from Chango in Mexico, and of course Lionel Messi equalling another record on Tuesday night. Step this way…
In England’s Premier League, it was a quiet weekend for Argentines. Sergio Agüero‘s mystery injury – revealed by the player on his official website on Tuesday to be a burn caused by an anaesthetic spray on his foot – kept him out of Manchester City’s 3-3 draw with Sunderland. Pablo Zabaleta did feature, and Carlos Tevez once again came off the bench, but to little effect. For Wigan Athletic, Franco Di Santo had a good chance early on but couldn’t make it count as his side went on to beat Stoke City 2-0 anyway.
On Sunday, Newcastle United beat Liverpool 2-0, with Jonás Gutiérrez the only Argentine to feature – injuries to the the back line mean he played, as he has a couple of times recently, at full back. If only he’d had a bit more experience in the position prior to the 2010 World Cup, hey Diego? Maxi Rodríguez was an unused substitute for the visitors.
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Serie A was more productive. Nicolás Spolli got a headed second half equaliser for Argentine-packed Catania as they drew 1-1 at home to AC Milan. Cristian Ledesma and Lionel Scaloni featured for Lazio in a 3-1 loss to Parma, with substitute Scaloni grabbing his side’s goal thirty-six minutes in. Fernando Gago played for Roma and Erik Lamela scored right at the end for them as they thrashed Novara 5-2. Palermo beat Bologna 3-1 away, with Ezequiel Muñoz playing and Franco Vázquez an unused sub.
Ezequiel Lavezzi and Hugo Campagnaro were part of the Napoli side who lost 3-0 away to Juventus, whilst Maxi Moralez and Matías Schelotto were similarly unlucky; their Atalanta side lost 2-0 away to Cagliari. The match of the weekend, however, featured no fewer than six Argentine goals, including a hat trick from Diego Milito. His Internazionale side took on Genoa, and ran out 5-4 winners. Inter raced into a 3-0 lead with two goals from Milito and one from defender Walter Samuel before the fortieth minute, though Emilio Moretti gave the half time scoreline some dignity for Genoa. Rodrigo Palacio gave the visitors hope with a penalty in the second half to make it 3-2, but when Mauro Zárate added a fourth for Inter it looked over. Alberto Gilardino scored from the spot to bring Genoa back to 4-3, before Milito completed his hat trick, also with a penalty. Gilardino got another penalty converted in the ninetieth minute, but it was too little, too late. Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso also featured – of course – for Inter. Fernando Belluschi played for Genoa.
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Tom Clark, whose blog you’ll find here, is HEGS’ ever-trusty man in Mexico.
Pachuca opened the 13th round of the Mexican torneo on Friday night 30 March by dispatching Tijuana 1-0 at home on the strength of Javier Muñoz Mustafá’s header in the sixty-second minute from a corner by Mauro Cejas:
The following day Tigres extended an impressive unbeaten stretch at home with a resounding 4-1 win over a formidable Morelia side. Second half goals by Lucas Lobos (in the sixty-sixth minute) and Damián Álvarez (in the seventy-fifth) put this one away.
Meanwhile in the capital, Cruz Azul overcame a fourteenth minute wonder strike from distance by Alfredo Chango Moreno to turn over San Luis 3-1.
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Rumours may persist about a possible departure from the club, but Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuaín continues to perform on the pitch. A swap deal featuring Sergio Agüero is the latest story, but Pipita doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest. An excellent brace in a 5-1 away victory against Osasuna showed exactly his worth, as he finished with a fine chip and a close-range header. Aside from the goal, he was as industrious as ever linking the attack. On Wednesday, Ángel Di María scored a fine goal late on in Real Madrid’s 5-2 crushing of Cypriot champions APOEL Nicosia in the European Cup quarter-final second leg.
Málaga suffered a serious blow to their Champions League placing aspirations, as they were beat 2-0 at home by Real Betis. Martín Demichelis continued in his defensive midfield role for Málaga, and in it he sees much more of the ball. This isn’t a good thing, as his distribution out of deep midfield is slow and predictable. Defensively meanwhile, he was shaken by Betis’ swift counter attacks, and will be looking forward to moving back into central defence. His team-mate and countryman Diego Buonanotte was handed a late run out but didn’t get into the game.
Barcelona managed a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday evening, as they kept the pressure on Real Madrid. Lionel Messi was surrounded throughout the game, and the tactic worked from Athletic’s point of view as it restricted him from being involved heavily in the run of play. Still though, Messi did manage a goal, albeit from the penalty spot, and was able to squeeze into some space on a few occasions, putting together several well placed passes. He scored twice more from the spot in midweek of course, to level José Altafini’s single-season European Cup goalscoring record of fourteen, way back in 1962-63. Javier Mascherano continued his excellent season with another dominant display in defence; clean tackles, great covering and recovery, neat passing. Check, check, check…and check. Marcelo Bielsa meanwhile saw his fatigued team slip to another domestic defeat, so will be expecting much more as they face Schalke in the Europa League this week.
Messi v Athletic
Atlético Madrid recovered from their recent slump, with a fine 3-0 victory over Getafe on Sunday. Opening the scoring for Diego Simeone’s men was Eduardo Salvio, and it was by unusual means. A ball drifting into the box saw Salvio, not the largest of guys, jump and beat the defender to loop the ball into the net. Other than that, Salvio was a nuisance for Getafe and continuously caused trouble in wide areas. Daniel Cata Díaz helped keep the score down for Getafe, with some timely blocks and clearances.
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This week’s trip around France starts in Brittany as Evian became only the fourth team to beat Lorient at the Stade de Moustoir. Lucas Mareque was on the losing side and although he had more touches (122) than anyone else on the pitch the defeat saw Lorient drop to 14th, only two points outside the relegation zone.
Another Argentine on the losing side was former Huracán maestro Javier Pastore. Paris Saint-Germain had the chance to move back into first place with a win away at AS Nancy, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side wouldn’t have it all their own way, eventually going down 2-1. Pastore was heavily involved but failed to cause any danger where it really counts. He really needs to manage more than two shots in a game if he is to lead this PSG side forward.
Two Argentines on the winning side were the duo of Fabián Monzón and Renato Civelli. Although they couldn’t manage a clean sheet, they will be delighted with the ninetieth minute winner that saw them overcome Saint-Etienne 3-2. It was the dangerous centre back Civelli that helped the away side pick up the important three points. Civelli got his head to the ball and full-back Francois Clerc provided the late finish.
Up in northern France, Lille made their push to get back in the title race and centre-back Mauro Cetto was in the back line to help Lille see off Toulouse 2-1 and move four points from PSG and Montpellier at the top of the league.
Last but not least we head back to Brittany and our second Argentine goal of the weekend. After going a goal behind Lyon managed to steal an away point from Rennes with a 1-1 draw, although the single point doesn’t do much for both sides in the hunt for European football. Lisandro López played a decent game, his three shots on goal doesn’t seem that bad until you realise that two of the shots were from his 76th minute equaliser. With his first attempt crashing off the post, Licha was lucky enough to see the rebound fall back into his path and provided the cool finish.
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.