Most of Europe’s top leagues come to an end this weekend, so the final full-sized Argentines Abroad of the year gets you ready for the remaining title run-ins in England and France, as well as recapping the action from Spain and Portugal last weekend. Lionel Messi’s world record, Diego Milito’s hat trick in the Milan derby, and more. Step this way.
In the Premier League, die-hard blue Carlos Tevez and Sergio Agüero were lively – and Agüero helped lay on one of Yaya Touré’s two goals – as Manchester City beat Newcastle United 2-0 away to move to within a hair’s breadth of the league title. Pablo Zabaleta also featured for City, whilst Fabricio Coloccini and Jonás Gutiérrez both played for Newcastle. On Monday, Franco Di Santo missed two good chances for Wigan Athletic, who ended up grabbing a 1-0 win away to Blackburn Rovers which relegated the hosts anyway.
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In Serie A, it was an uncharacteristically quiet weekend for Argentine goalscorers, with two exceptions. Matías Silvestre grabbed an eighty-ninth minute equaliser for Palermo at home to Chievo Verona, to ensure their match ended in an eye-popping 4-4 draw. Another side also scored four on the same day (Sunday): Internazionale, who beat city rivals Milan 4-2 thanks in no small part to a hat trick from Diego Milito. Javier Zanetti (who was superb), Ricky Álvarez, Esteban Cambiasso and Walter Samuel all started for Inter.
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The weekend’s penultimate round of Liga fixtures saw the usual heavy Argentine involvement, particularly in the Clássico at the Dragão; Porto v Sporting, meaningless in terms of the title race, with much of the action given over to Porto’s celebrations. Nico Otamendi and Lucho González lined up for the home side, whilst Emiliano Insúa started for Sporting. All three had quiet outings, with Lucho making way for Steven Defour with an hour gone.
Ezequiel Garay, Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola all started for Benfica against União de Leiria, whose own XI included José Shaffer, on loan at the club from Benfica. In a low-key encounter played out to a half-empty Luz, Benfica prevailed 1-0, with none of the Argentines involved either distinguishing nor disgracing themselves.
Elsewhere, Andrés Madrid made a nine-minute cameo in the closing stages of Nacional’s 3-1 win over Gil Vicente, whilst Víctor Meza and Jorge Molina were unused substitutes for Olhanense and Guimarães respectively.
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With only three weeks to go in Ligue Un the race for the title is going right down to the wire. Paris Saint-Germain had the chance on Sunday night to draw level with league leaders Montpellier, before the latter faced a tough trip to Brittany to face Rennes.
Valenciennes were PSG’s opponents, and they obviously hadn’t read the script as they took an early two goal lead at home. The Parisians fought their way back in and equalised after goals from Jeremy Menez and Maxwell. PSG continued to push forward and took the lead just before half time when Javier Pastore played a lovely ball in behind the Valenciennes defence, finding midfielder Blaise Matuidi, the Frenchman at full stretch got a vital touch and poked the ball past Nicolas Penneteau and into the back of the net.
It was Pastore’s sixth assist of the league season, such a crucial time to score and another moment of magic from the former Huracán playmaker. April saw Pastore return to a decent level of form, scoring against Sochaux and Lille for his eleventh and twelfth goals of the season. PSG would go on to win 4-3, a vital win as PSG try to win their first title since 1994.
They will go into the final two games of the season three points behind Montpellier, who won 2-0 at Rennes. This weekend PSG host Rennes and Montpellier welcome third-placed Lille at the Stade de la Mosson, the league title is far from over and there could still be an Argentine lifting Le Championnat at the end of the season.
Elsewhere both Fabián Monzón and Renato Civelli both played the whole game as Nice played out a 0-0 draw with Toulouse; the defenders have had a fairly successful season. Monzón’s seven and Civelli’s four goals see them first and third top scorers for their club. There was another goalless draw as Saint-Étienne and Marseille failed to find the net, the only moment of note was Alejandro Alonso starting and playing for 75 mins. It was his first start of the season as he only returned from injury last week. Saint-Etienne fans were happy to see Alonso – another former Huracán midfielder – return, after he missed eight-and-a-half months with a ruptured cruciate ligament.
Over near the Alps it was an unhappy day for Lyon and their Argentine striker Lisandro López. The former Porto man was a frustrated figure as he tried to give his team a slight glimmer of hope that they could steal third place from Lille. Licha had six shots on goals but came up against an injured goalkeeper in Brest’s Steeve Elana. In the end Elana would be rewarded as Gregory Lorenzi scored in the 75th minute and Lyon had no response. The 1-1 draw meant the end of Lyon’s European Cup qualification hopes, thus ending Lyon’s run of twelve consecutive seasons in Europe’s elite competition.
Good news for the Lyon fans came after the match, though, as Lisandro announced that he would stay at the Stade Gerland despite finishing outside the top three.
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Sporting Gijón have been fighting for their lives in recent weeks, and they managed another positive result with a 2-1 victory over Real Betis. Sporting’s hero again, was Gastón Sangoy, the man from Boca Juniors’ academy. He grabbed both goals in fact, the first being a penalty before winning the game with a ferocious strike into the roof of the net. The assist on the second goal came from Óscar Trejo, another Boca academy player, who had another excellent game linking midfield and attack, as well as making key passes in the final third and being intelligent with his running.
Valencia achieved a 1-0 victory over Villarreal to confirm their third place in La Liga. It had been in doubt over recent weeks but the win and Málaga’s slip-up confirmed it. Tino Costa had a poor game for Valencia and surprisingly got the whole ninety minutes. His teammate Pablo Piatti offered a few glimpses of his talent but couldn’t really get into the game. Villarreal meanwhile had Gonzalo Rodríguez back in the starting line-up following his spell on the bench. He had a decent game and did the basics well. Mateo Mussachio was in front of him, providing screening cover in defensive midfield, putting in several tackles to wave away the pressure. Marco Ruben led the Villarreal attack but didn’t provide the physical threat he usually does, while Alejandro Martinuccio’s performance off the bench was ineffective.
It was a below-par display away to Granada on Saturday, but Real Madrid managed to squeeze a 2-1 victory out of the game. To start things off, Granada took the lead through Franco Jara. The on-loan midfielder has had a decent season with the Andalusian club, providing spark in the final third and he did so again here as he managed to score within the opening five minutes. Ángel Di Maria had a poor game for Madrid, with little impact to speak of, while Gonzalo Higuaín fared little better coming off the bench. Higuaín had a meeting with José Mourinho and others this past week and the word is clear: We want you to stay.
All eyes were on one man as Barcelona beat Espanyol 4-0, and for once it wasn’t Lionel Messi – even though he did score four goals for Barça. It was Pep Guardiola’s last game at Camp Nou before he goes on his sabbatical. What better way for Pep to see things out, than with a four-goal haul from his star pupil. One was a free-kick, the other a superb cross-goal shot and the other two were penalties. Another glorious display took him to fifty league goals for the season and a world record seventy-two in all competitions – absurd. Javier Mascherano was solid as ever for Barça, and has been one of the real standout performers this season. Espanyol had Cristian Álvarez in goal and he made some good stops to keep the score from becoming a humiliation. Juan Forlín didn’t help his team-mate out at all, and had a shocker losing his positional sense and looking nervy throughout.
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