Argentines stole the show once again in Europe as no less than five players from that South American power scored over this past weekend, while several other countrymen were playmakers.
On the flip side, Chicharito continued to ride the bench at Manchester United. He managed to get on the field for about 15 minutes at the end of United's win as his personal scoreless streak moved closer to two months, which is incredible for someone of Chicharito's scoring prowess and stature.
Gonzalo Higuaín, José Callejón
The Argentine sharp-shooter helped Real Madrid rally for a 2-1 win at Mallorca. Higuaín equalized in the 72nd minute before Callejón, a Spaniard connected for the go-head score in the 84th minute. Real kept its five-point lead over Barcelona. RM hosts Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa del Ray quarterfinals on Wednesday, the ninth clásico in as many months.
Barcelona allowed a two-goal lead to go down the drain before Sanchez, a Chilean, broke a 2-2 tie in the 75th minute and Messi scored his second goal of the match on a penalty kick in the 86th minute. Hernández, who became the first Barca player to play in 400 league games, and Messi tallied in the 10th and 12th minutes, respectively. Ruben Castro became the first visitor to score a league goal at Camp Nou Stadium in the 32nd minute -- Barca had outscored its opposition at home, 41-0, until then -- and Roque Santa Cruz equalized in the 52nd minute.
“We managed to get through a very tough game,” Xavi told a Spanish television station “Betis also want the ball and they played well and made things pretty difficult for us. Their players have a lot of technical ability and that’s why it was an open game with chances for both sides.”
Radamel Falcao, Adrian López, Gonzalo Rodríguez
Falcao registered a brace for Atletico Madrid in its 3-0 shutout of Villarreal in Argentine Diego Simeone's home debut as coach. The Colombian striker first struck in the 40th minute as he deposited a López pass -- he's an Argentine -- into the back of the net. Falcao added a penalty kick -- his 11th goal of the season in the 51st minute after Rodríguez, an Argentine, fouled the Colombian in the penalty area.
The Argentine fired home a stoppage-time goal from outside the penalty area to lift Sporting Gijon to a 2-1 triumph over Malaga.
Andrés Guardado, Diego Colotto
Guardado, a Mexican midfielder, did not score a goal for Deportivo La Coruña in its 2-0 victory at Huesca, but he set up the first goal of the Spanish Second Division match. The win left Deportivo atop the standings of any league for the first time in more than 21 years. The last time the team was in first place was after a 2-0 triumph over Murcia in La Liga, the Division Division on Sept. 16, 1990. Two minutes after the referee failed to award a penalty kick to the visitors after a Guardado left-wing cross hit the hand of Tariq in the seventh minute, the Mexican international set up the first goal. He sent a free kick from the right side that sailed to the far post. Colotto, an Argentine defender, out-jumped his marker and headed the ball past goalkeeper Luis García.
Milito struck in the 54th minute to boost Inter Milan to a 1-0 triumph over A.C. Milan in the Serie A derby to end the latter's 12-game unbeaten streak. The Argentinean fired home a shot to the near post as Inter won Italy's most enduring rivalry. The loss dropped A.C. Milan into second place behind Juventus while Inter remained in fifth place despite its sixth win in a row.
“I’m really happy, truly content,” Milito told the Inter website. “We’ve played a great game against a great opponent. We knew that it would be difficult but we have played a game of great concentration. It was an important test for us, for our position in the table and for morale. We’re very happy. To win a derby is the most beautiful thing, above all for the fans. Thanks to them, because they are always behind us. This goal is for them.”
Javier "Chicharito" Hernández
The Mexican international striker continued to take a backseat to Danny Welbeck and a seat on the bench as Manchester United registered a 3-0 win over Bolton in English Premier League action at Old Trafford. The Mexican international came on as a late-game substitute for Welbeck in the 78th minute. By then, ManU already had a two-goal lead. Chicharito has not has not scored in 250 minutes over seven matches. He has not found the back of the net since a 1-1 draw with Newcastle United on Nov. 27, his only home goal this season.
The Argentine defender moved into the attack to help create the lone goal of host Newcastle United's 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers. Gutíerrez passed the ball striker Shola Ameobi, who sent it over to Ryan Taylor. Taylor then found Leon Best, who tallied his fourth league goal this season.
The Argentine star helped Paris Saint-Germain give coach Carlo Ancelotti a victory in his league debut, a 3-1 win over Toulouse. After PSG grabbed a 2-0 lead, Pastore scored in the 56th minute to help the club to keep a three-point lead over Montpellier.
Guillermo, a Mexican international goalkeeper, and his AC Ajaccio teammates find themselves among the hottest teams in French Ligue 1. Ochoa and Ajaccio recorded their third consecutive win, a 2-1 victory over Auxerre in a game with three red cards. Ochoa wasn't severely tested, even though Ajaccio finished with nine players. Ajaccio, which gained a measure of revenge for a 4-1 defeat to Auxerre in August, remained in last and 20th place.
Oscar Cardozo, Manuel Agudo
Cardozo, a Paraguayan, struck for a brace for first-place Benfica as it came from behind en route to a 4-1 romp over Setubal. After Agudo, a Spaniard, started Benfica's comeback from a 1-0 deficit in the 24th minute, Cardozo found the back of the net nine minutes later before adding another in the 45th minute.
The Peruvian scored in the 74th minute after Braga grabbed a two-goal lead en route to a 2-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon, which has won but once in its last seven games.
The Honduran international defender, who recently came back from a broken ankle that kept him sidelined since August, continued to show he belongs in the Celtic lineup. Izaguirre created Celtic’s second goal of its 2-1 Scottish Premier League win over Dundee United. The victory stretched the Hoops’ league winning streak to 11 games and helped them to main a two-point lead over Rangers. After the Hoops grabbed a 1-0 advantage on Gary Hooper’s 12th minute goal, the Honduran went into action while on attack five minutes later. He sent a cross to Victor Wanyama, who headed it home for a 2-0 lead. Izaguirre was replaced in the 77th minute by midfielder Kris Commons. Both players received nice ovations from the crowd.
The Chicago Fire signed the 25-year-old Uruguayan striker as he joined Colombian Rafael Robayo as the second South American player this winter. Puppo, who played with Danubio in Uruguay, will be added to the club’s roster as an international player upon the receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 visa. “Federico Puppo is a player we’ve kept an eye for the past few seasons,” Fire coach Frank Klopas said. “He is a smart forward who moves well off the ball and finishes in front of the goal. His addition helps us to strengthen our attacking core. We are excited to get all of these guys into camp and begin putting in the work on the field.”
Chivas USA added the 21-year-old Ecuadorian attacking midfielder. He most recently played for L.D.U Quito in Ecuador. “Miller is an exciting young attacking player,” Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser said. “He’s a good passer, good finisher, and good at running at people, definitely a special attacking talent and we certainly look forward to having him."
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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