Category Archives: Venezuelans Abroad

Venezuelan Abroad in the UEFA Champions League – 16 September 2014

UEFA Champions League 

championsleague

Tuesday 16 September 2014

UEFA Champions League – Group C: Match Day 1

Benfica 0-2 Zenit St. Petersburg

For the line-ups, click here

Match Report

In what had been billed as a clash between two in-form sides, Zenit St. Petersburg pulled off a result that some casual observers certainly considered a surprise, taking the game to As Águias in a contest that was effectively over after little more than 20 minutes.

Many fans of this most prestigious of Portuguese clubs would have been less surprised by the outcome as it must have confirmed some of their worst fears regarding their status in the contemporary European hierarchy. Indeed, the Zenit line-up would have been very familiar to them as it featured three former players – Axel Witsel, Javi García and the summer departure Ezequiel Garay – who all left Benfica for bigger contracts, with two of them – Witsel and Garay – having headed directly to Russia. The visitors also fielded two prominent attacking threats in Hulk and Danny (who, owing to his past call-ups to the Portuguese national side, was certainly no stranger to the crowd), both former employees of fierce rivals Porto, a side who just over three years ago were also successfully managed by André Villas-Boas.

Thus, the home fans knew what they were up against from the oft and any lingering sense of foreboding was heightened no more than five minutes after the kick-off. Defensive gaps were easily exploited by Shatov who held off several challenges to slip through Hulk who ran into space just inside the area and made his left-footed curler around Artur look effortless. This subdued the half-full stadium and the atmosphere struggled to recover throughout the opening stages, with the Benfiquistas only really finding their voices to express their discontent with proceedings and to boo certain opponents. Hulk was the target of most of their ire, which was surely as much to do with his play as it was his Porto links as he was frequently on the ball looking, as he often does, like he was going to tear through the porous opposition back line every time he went forward.

Any hopes that they would get back into the match were dealt a severe blow in the 18th minute as again their defence was left standing with Danny latching onto Shatov’s through-ball before being blocked off by Artur who he was almost certainly going to round and score past. The referee had no option but to send off the goalkeeper, with the promising young Brazilian Talisca being sacrificed for the 36 year-old Paulo Lopes who took up his position being the sticks to make a very rare first-team appearance. While he will have been relieved to see the resulting free-kick from Hulk go narrowly wide due to a deflection, he still was not to have a touch before Zenit’s second goal. Indeed, the subsequent corner was floated in and headed goalwards by Witsel whose effort was over the line before Lopes could claw it out. A short pause of purgatory followed before the referee’s confirmation but when it came the Belgian opted to follow the contemporary trend of players looking sheepish and reluctant to celebrate a goal against former employers, which did not stop his team-mates mobbing him.

For the remaining 70 minutes, though Benfica did come back into the game, having sporadic spells of dominating possession and enough chances that, if listed, would give the impression that they could have been on level terms, the events of the first 20 minutes somewhat distorted the subsequent play. Indeed, Zenit could probably have also scored more goals but given their numerical advantages on the field and the scoreboard, did not have to play with the same intensity as they began with and thus sometimes took their collective foot off the pedal but did enough to run out victors.

Nevertheless, for the completists out there, Benfica’s two best chances came in the second half, firstly from a 59th-minute free-kick from the Argentine Enzo Pérez that was met by a powerful header from Luisão and forced Lodygin into a diving double-handed save as the ball headed for the top corner. An even better chance came just over five minutes later when a through-ball deflected off the Belgian defender Lombaerts into the path of Lima, who was in space and got away a quick shot that hit Lodygin’s legs and was subsequently cleared from the goalmouth.

Zenit had a few more opportunities but with the exception of a fearsome Hulk effort that came directly after the Lima effort, these can be discussed in the section below.

Venezuelan Perspective

Having been placed on the bench for Zenit’s last two league games, Salomón Rondón returned to the line-up but as an attacking threat could not compete with the physical prowess of Hulk nor the incisiveness and vision of both Shatov and Danny. He was a peripheral figure for the majority of his 75 minutes on the field, often awaiting crosses and through-balls that never came and which sometimes bypassed him altogether. Arguably, his most important contribution to the first half was blocking off a defender from sticking out a foot to intercept Shatov’s cutting through-ball that slid forwards to Danny for the red-card incident. Whether the defender would have managed to halt the ball’s path without the Caracas-born striker there is debatable, but if that is excluded then his most eye-catching moments in this half were a series of clashes with Maxi Pereira that culminated with the notoriously charming Uruguayan blocking him off with a combination of arm and elbow.

In the second half, Rondón was involved in two potential goal incidents, one of which was more an opportunity for Hulk but the second was very much his to bury, something he not only was unable to do but which cast a shadow over his exit from the field just a few minutes afterwards.

Hulk’s effort came on 61 minutes, when he received a patented piercing pass from Shatov and struck a left-footed shot from a narrow angle on the left that Lopes got a touch to as it bounced off the far post and almost back into the path of Rondón but a defender managed to hook it away before he could get to it.

As for Rondón’s gilt-edged opportunity, it came after 71 minutes with him getting on to a loose ball in midfield, passing short to Danny and running forward to receive a through-ball in the area, one-on-one with Lopes. However, he perhaps shaped his body just a little excessively as he was to watch his right-footed shot bend around not only the goalkeeper but also the far post, thus failing to finally kill off the game once and for all. When he was substituted shortly afterwards, his dejection and slumped demeanour were there for all to see.

Admittedly, too much can be made of incidents such as this as, despite what Youtube highlight reels may suggest, all of the greatest players in the world regularly miss opportunities that their inflated reputations and media advocates would have us believe that they would never fail to convert. However, after a blistering start to his Zenit career that began back in February, he has now not found the net in five games (three with Zenit, two with Venezuela) and he has had at least a few good chances to do so. While it is more than likely he will get back to scoring ways soon, he can never get too complacent with the likes of Kerzhakov and now even Arshavin waiting in the wings. Having transferred from Rubin Kazan for a considerable sum while approaching what will ideally be the peak years of his career, he is doubtless Zenit’s number one out-and-out striker. However, as he was not signed by Villas-Boas he can not feel quite so assured of a starting place as much as he would like, so certainly needs to get back to burying chances like the one in this match as often as possible.

Additional Match Trivia

Despite this being Europe’s premier competition, altogether there were actually 12 South Americans in the starting line-ups: 6 Brazilians (Benfica: Artur, Luisão, Jardel, Talisca & Lima; Zenit: Hulk), 4 Argentines (Benfica: Pérez, Gaitán & Salvio; Zenit: Garay), 1 Uruguayan (Benfica: Pereira) and, of course, 1 Venezuelan (Zenit: Rondón). Much as this website would also like to include Danny, though he was born in Venezuela this was to parents from Portugal, a nation he has represented over twenty times.

Remarkably, this was the first time in 51 home games in all competitive competitions that Benfica lost at home. The last team to defeat them at the Estádio da Luz was Barcelona in a 2-0 Champions League victory on 2 October 2012. Incidentally, in this game Benfica started with no Portuguese players and 10 South Americans, with the Serbian Nemanja Matić the odd one out. Read more about this game here.

Zenit St. Petersburg have now won their last 11 games in all competitions, with the only blight on their record coming in their first match of the season in the away leg of the Champions League qualifier against AEL Limassol of Cyprus, who achieved a 1-0 victory.

Lastly, Zenit St. Petersburg are now undefeated in their last five games against Portuguese opposition, with their last loss actually coming against Benfica on 6 March 2012 in a 2-0 defeat that knocked them out of the Round of 16 stage of the Champions League. This was another game in which the Portuguese side did not start with any of their countrymen, but they did play two midfielders who must have stood out to the Zenit hierarchy – Javi García and Axel Witsel. These two later recruitments may have been a consequence of a lesson learned by matches such as this, as on this occasion the Russians very much did show faith in their native players, fielding eight of them in contrast to a mere three this time around. Read more about their previous encounter here.

Venezuelan Abroad in Russia – Recap of the Weekend

Russia 

russia

Saturday 13 September 2014

Premier League 

Zenit St. Petersburg 3-2 Dynamo Moscow

Match Summary

Last season in May, this fixture was marred by a violent pitch invasion from the Zenit fans in the dying minutes as they struggled to come to terms with their side’s title challenge evaporating before their very eyes. Thankfully, this top-of-the-table encounter made headlines for all the right reasons as a rather entertaining, topsy-turvy game was decided in the dying moments of regulation time, with André Villas-Boas’s men departing with their 100 per cent record in tact and an extended lead of six points.

However, it was the visitors who took the lead after 18 minutes through an instinctive, elegant goal by Mathieu Valbuena who, upon receiving a short pass just inside the area, intuitively converted his boot into a 9-iron and in a blink of an eye chipped the ball over Yuriy Lodygin into the far corner.

Zenit’s reply came 10 minutes later when Domenico Criscito evaded a challenge on the left side of the area, cut inside and shoT a low effort with his right-foot that 40 year-old Armenian goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky (who enjoyed six years at Zenit, leaving a sobering 14 years ago) will feel he should have kept hold of. Instead, he parried it out and Douglas, a Brazil-born defender who has been called up to the Dutch squad by virtue of having played several years with FC Twente, did not have time to adjust his body, instead having to helplessly watch the ball rebound off his legs and into the net for an own goal.

The hosts then took the lead after 40 minutes when Hulk came forward to play Andrey Arshavin into space just inside the area and Russia’s star of Euro 2008 seized this rare starting opportunity by confidently striking home a powerful shot past the static Berezovsky.

The second-half was certainly not short of incidents, but the comparatively well-behaved fans had to wait until the 82nd minute to see another goal, though it would not have been greeted favourably by the majority of the 15,000 people in the Petrovsky Stadium. A free-kick was lofted in from the left by Valbuena and Congolese forward Christopher Samba rose high to power a header from close-range that Lodygin attempted to get a hand to but could only flick onto the underside of the crossbar, with the ball rebounding downwards and marginally over the line.

Though a draw may have been desirable for some neutrals, AVB’s side were to get the winner in the 89th minute following some nice interplay between Danny and Igor Smolnikov. The Russian passed to the erstwhile Portuguese international, then ran into the area from the right where he took advantage of some slack tracking to collect a through-ball and fire home through the arms of Berezovsky.

Venezuelan Perspective

As had been noted in the last update, Brazilian powerhouse Hulk – always Zenit’s most conspicuous player and usually for the right reasons – was reported to be injured for approximately six weeks, yet he made a surprisingly quick recovery just two weeks later in this match. His return rendered speculation – which may or may not have come from this column – on whether Salomón Rondón would step up to take over as Zenit’s leading forward threat meaningless and it was not the only unanticipated selection that diminished the role of the Venezuelan.

Indeed, Hulk’s reported condition opened up ruminations on whether Rondón and Kerzhakov could be accommodated into the same line-up, yet rather than play these two strikers in partnership, Villas-Boas did not even start with one of them, instead granting Andrey Arshavin his first start of the season. To do this in a hotly anticipated game against arguably his side’s biggest rivals for the title was difficult to comprehend. One possible explanation is that he wished Rondón to be rested ahead of the midweek Champions League game against Benfica, though as most of Zenit’s leading players – except possibly Shatov – were not afforded similar treatment, this seems unlikely. Perhaps more plausible is that Villas-Boas felt that, for all of Rondón’s goalscoring achievements, he has had a tendency of late to miss a considerable number of good chances and while Arshavin may not always deliver the goods he can display considerable ability from time to time. But to give him an opportunity to do so in this particular match? It is still a rather unexpected decision, though as he scored a goal, AVB will doubtlessly feel vindicated.

Rondón replaced Arshavin just after the hour mark but he must have had some doubts as to whether he would play in the Benfica game which was played earlier tonight and which will be discussed in the next update.

Venezuelans Abroad in Switzerland – Recap of Round 7 in the Swiss Super League

320px-Flag_of_Switzerland_(Pantone).svg

Switzerland

Continuing with the attempt to bring this site up to speed before the weekend’s action, here are the most recent updates relating to the top Venezuelan players in the Swiss top-flight:

Saturday 30 August 2014

Swiss Super League

Thun 2-1 Sion

It seems almost an affront to the very raison d’être of the World Wide Web that it appears that not one person on earth has grubbily uploaded video highlights of dubious legality of this match. If you can find some then please do get in touch and they will be added at a later date. (Update! @FootballSwiss came to the rescue and provided a great link to watch highlights of this game, the one mentioned below and every other Swiss top-flight game! Go visit those links and somehow overlook certain portions of this article that have now been rendered meaningless.)

GolesVinotinto

Image Source: Goles Vinotinto

In absence of kinetic imagery, the static one above will have to suffice and from it one can see that this match was billed as a potential Venezuelan Civil War. However, this did not materialise as while Thun regular Alexander González played 78 minutes, Pedro Ramírez was yet again left on the bench to watch his rather multicultural Sion team-mates, who fielded a line-up that represented nine different nationalities.

The home side came out on top, thanks to an early penalty from occasional Finnish international Berat Sadik and a 71st-minute winner from Gianluca Frontino, who had only been on the pitch four minutes to score his first league goal for the club. The visitors’ goal went to Romanian Nicolae Herea and they now find themselves 5th in a ten-team league, yet whilst this may be in the top-half, it is also just three points off the bottom of the league where Liechtenstein-based side FC Vaduz currently reside. Sion will face second-placed FC Zürich in their next game and if they manage to pull off an unlikely away victory then Thun, currently third, will have an opportunity to leapfrog the side from the capital if they can defeat Aarau, another game that could see a Venezuelan on either side.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Swiss Super League

Luzern 1-1 Aarau

(Update: For highlights, click here)

Only one goal appears to have been donated to the Online Goal Bank but it really is some goal – take a look for yourselves. It shows Swede Dusan Djuric looping a long-range effort over the Luzern goalkeeper in the 65th minute to earn Aarau a point, having fallen behind in the 33rd minute to a goal from the Paraguayan Dario Luzcano.

Frank Feltscher was still out injured but progress has since been made on that front and last weekend (6 September 2014) he actually played his first match for over two months and even scored as he lined up with a young Aarau side in a friendly game. Unsurprisingly, no highlights exist but we do have the rather fetching photograph below as well as a German-language feature article with quotes in which he states, among other things, that it is his dream to play in next year’s Copa América and that he hopes to face Alexander González’s Thun this coming weekend.

Frank-Feltscher-PRENSA-FC-AARAU

Image Source: FC Aarau Official Site

Venezuelans Abroad in Spain – Recap of Week 2 in the Primera División

Spain

Although this update is being published over a week after the games were played, there are still several days before the next round of matches are played in the Spanish top-flight so hopefully the two match reports below will be of interest to some. If there is anyone waiting for updates from the two rounds played in Liga Adelante since that league’s last mention on this site, rest assured that this has not been forgotten about.

Friday 29 August 2014

Primera División

Valencia 3-0 Málaga

Roberto Rosales and co. were eventually beaten comfortably by a Valencia side who may well be eyeing up a Champions League berth, yet had Sergi Darder not received a red card midway through the first half, it could have been a rather even contest at the Mestalla.

Los Boquerones had started brightly with Roque Santa Cruz brushing the side-netting with a header from an acute angle early on and Juanmi later having a low deflected shot from the edge of the area saved by the outstretched glove of Diego Alves. Sofiane Feghouli had Valencia’s best chance in the first quarter with a diving header that glanced just wide, but what could have been a tight match was effectively ended in the 27th minute when Darder became the third Málaga player in two games to receive his marching orders, after going in with studs showing from behind on Dani Parejo.

A few minutes later, the home side were ahead as Spain’s great new striking hope Paco Alcácer ran onto a cross from Rosales’s side to deftly finish with the outside of his right foot. Soon afterwards, Ricardo Horta swivelled to make himself some room on the left side of the Valencia area to and fizzled a right-footed effort that was swerving so unpredictably that Alves had to tip it over. However, while the sending off did not altogether curtail Málaga’s attacking instincts, it did render them more vulnerable on counter-attacks such as the one led by Feghouli at the end of the half. This culminated with the Algerian international running to the central edge of the area and nudging an attempted through-ball that hit the hand of the sliding captain Weligton which, however unintentional, the referee presumably judged to be denying a goalscoring opportunity and awarded a free-kick. Parejo stepped up take it and though Carlos Kameni – starting again ahead of Guillermo Ochoa – got a good hand to it, the Valencia captain was there to strike home the rebound on the stroke of half-time to give his side a two-goal advantage.

Just after five minutes into the second period, Málaga were incorrectly denied a route back into the game when Luis Alberto found Juanmi with a lovely chipped pass that the youth team graduate confidently put away, yet the officials disallowed the goal for a non-existent offside. Unsurprisingly, the club’s president was out fuming after the game over the perceived injustices inflicted upon his team this season, yet this was of little concern to the hosts as they extended their lead five minutes later with a sublime team goal. Feghouli again had a role as he passed a cross-field ball over to the left edge of the area that Alcácer, with two fine touches, controlled and then played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Pablo Piatti who finished off the move flamboyantly with a well-executed strike with the outside of his left boot. Try though he did, Rosales was a rather helpless victim of this attack, as he could get nowhere near the fast-paced interplay and his frustrations manifested themselves 8 minutes later when he picked up a booking for an impetuous trip on Piatti.

After the third goal, the game was well and truly over as a contest and while there were further chances, the most notable occurrence from a Venezuelan perspective was the introduction of Juan ‘Juanpi’ Pablo Añor on 75 minutes for his senior debut, having been with the Andalusian side for four years. Some helpful soul has produced a video tracking his every touch, though it was his last one – which was also the final one of the match – that was the most eye-catching as, despite being a 20 year-old debutant, he was granted free-kick duties and bended a deflected effort no more than a yard past the woodwork in stoppage time. Hopefully in the near future we will be seeing a lot more of this youngster, preferably in a Málaga side that is capable of combining its evident attacking ability with some discipline.

Sunday 31 August 2014 

Primera División

Elche 1-1 Granada

Darwin Machís will have been disappointed to lose his starting spot to 18 year-old Nigerian forward, Success Isaac (yes, really), as a last-minute equaliser denied Granada the opportunity to be only the second team, along with Barcelona, with a 100 per cent record after a mere two games.

As Success was often involved in several dangerous attacks, Machís stayed on the bench throughout the match, from where he would have seen several close scrapes at either end in the first-half. Indeed, the home side’s best chance came from Cape Verde Islands international Garry Rodrigues who, having done the hard work of shrugging off several challenges in a powerful burst from his own half, was unable to slide the ball past Roberto, who stood tall. Granada’s near-goal came from Youssef El-Arabi who, having received a flick on from Success, saw his first shot saved by goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń, yet with the rebound falling fortuitously and goal gaping, his shot from the angle was dramatically blocked by the slide of Chilean fringe player, Enzo Roco.

In the second half, both Success and Granada’s opening-weekend match-winner Jean-Sylvain Babin had goals disallowed; the former for an offside decision and the latter for what appeared to be a push by a team-mate as he powered home a header from a corner. Undeterred, the Nazaríes continued their assault on the Elche back line and got the breakthrough in the 81st minute as Success cleverly played Fran Rico into some space with a short reverse-ball and he somehow managed to squeeze a low shot into the net from a very tight angle.

Ultimately however, any dreams of being joint-top of the league were dashed in the first minute of stoppage time when a free-kick from a deep position on the left was swung into the area where it flew over what most defenders must have thought was all the opposition players as no one detected the run of the incoming David Lombán, who volleyed home a low strike to earn a point.

Venezuelans Abroad in Portugal – Catch-up

Portugal

As with the previous articles on Serie A and Ligue 1, this article is at least a week late in publication so no doubt you all know what is coming next, but if Hispanospherical can not always be punctual, it very much likes to be comprehensive, so here comes some not-too-distant memories:

Sunday 31 August 2014 

Primeira Liga

Nacional 2-0 Arouca

For longer highlights, click here.

After four successive defeats that saw them joint-bottom in the league and out of the Europa League, Nacional at last got their season underway with a victory, though things could have been quite different had the visitors converted an early penalty. Indeed, David Simao blazed over the bar from 12 yards and was soon made to pay as the Nacionalistas received a penalty of their own following what looked like a rather unintentional handball. Uruguayan goalkeeper Mauro Goicoechea guessed incorrectly, diving to his right as Mario Rondón placed the spot-kick straight down the centre for his first goal of the season; Nacional fans will be pleased to see that, despite murmurs of discontent earlier in the year, the well-regarded Venezuelan remains in Portugal after the transfer window’s closure. The second goal came after 59 minutes as Marcos Matias crossed a corner into a very foggy penalty area and the South Korean Hyun-Jun Suk managed to hook the ball into the net, though how much anyone on either side could see of this is anyone’s guess. Following this victory, Nacional have shot up to 11th in the league and have a real chance to get their season back on track in their next match away to struggling Estoril, who not so long ago you may recall were defeated 5-1 by the other team in this league who are of interest to us…

Monday 1 September 2014

Primeira Liga 

Rio Ave 4-0 Boavista

Rio Ave romped to victory over 2000-01’s surprise champions to put themselves top of the pile with a 100 per cent record and a goal difference of +10, making light work of a side that, having recently fallen on hard times, required an election in the summer to return them to the Primeira Liga from the third tier, thus bypassing the Segunda Liga altogether. Following the dramatic midweek Europa League triumph, Jose Mourinho’s first senior club as a player (keep that fact warm in your back pocket until the end of the season when it may well be time to whip it out) capped what must be one of finest weeks in its history, though as Yonathan Del Valle was sidelined, he again missed out on a share of the glory. The Venezuelan is believed to be on the mend, but must have mixed emotions about having started the two previous league games and yet not actually being on the pitch when any of their 11 league goals have been scored.

This time around, two goals came in each half, with those in the first period coming courtesy of a fantastic free-kick by Brazil-born naturalised Belarusian, Renan Bressan, in the 26th minute and, two minutes later, the young Brazilian Diego Lopes, who continued his promising start to the season by coolly slotting home a low cross. After 59 minutes, Lucas, another Brazilian – this time wearing Boavista colours – earned his second yellow card for a recklessly high challenge on Emmanuel Boateng and, consequently, the home side strolled to victory with two late additional goals. Both of these came from crosses from the right, the third of the evening by midweek Europa League supersub Esmaël Gonçalves and the fourth was nodded home in stoppage time by the Ghanaian Boateng.

Sunday 31 August 2014

Segunda Liga

Porto B 0-1 Santa Clara

Santa Clara manager Cláudio Braga could not help but laugh with glee as Porto’s Angolan goalkeeper Kadú was responsible for an absolute howler for what should have been a routine save from a tame free-kick in stoppage time, thus gifting the away side a victory that their play did not merit. Playing in a back line featuring Mexican World Cup defender Diego Reyes, Victor García started his second game in a row though for unknown reasons – possibly relating to his fitness – was withdrawn at half-time. Throughout the game, Porto really did dominate the chances but will be cursing their fortunes – and trying not to admonish Kadú too much – as Ruizinho Furtado’s embarrassing winner means they now sit in 21st, one place off the relegation zone, with 4 points in 5 games.

Venezuelans Abroad in France – Recap of Last Weekend

France

Again, apologies for the delay with this update. You are most likely more than aware of what went on in Ligue 1 but for those who are either not or who perhaps are but fancy some more detail and highlights, please read on:

Sunday 31 August 2014

Ligue 1 

FC Metz 2-1 Lyon

Late drama watched by over 20,000 spectators at the Stade Saint-Symphorien as FC Metz came from behind to score two goals in the last ten minutes to secure their first victory upon returning to the top-flight and add to Lyon’s growing woes. Les Gones did actually have the better of the chances in the first half, the best one coming after a poor defensive clearance was seized upon and passed in the area to last season’s top-scorer Alexandre Lacazette who slipped slightly but managed to get a deflected shot away that Carrasso palmed onto the crossbar.

Into the second half where the bulk of the drama occurred, after 64 minutes Juan Falcón came off the bench to replace former Le Mans and Sochaux striker Modibo Maïga. As the latter has just arrived on loan from West Ham and possesses a proven history of goalscoring prowess in Ligue 1, the Venezuelan may have felt a sense of foreboding about the remainder of the season after being removed from the line-up for the first time this season; however, as events transpired later on this day, he certainly has reasons to feel optimistic. Before he could shine, though, Lyon took the lead in the 68th minute when Lacazette picked up the ball on the right just outside the area, passing to Jordan Ferri towards the left inside the area whose shot was saved by Carrasso but he received the rebound and somehow managed to find, through three defenders, Lacazette, who tapped home at the back post. Unfortunately for Ferri, 14 minutes later, he helped provide a goal at the other end as he tripped Bouna Sarr for a penalty, which was well-converted by Yeni N’Gbakoto, who really opened up his body to curl the ball into the top right-hand corner. That was actually Metz’s third penalty in consecutive league games, two of which have been successfully put away by N’Gbakoto who presumably resumed spot-kick duties following Kevin Lejeune’s miss against Montpellier last week. Metz’s rousing winner came in the 86th minute after some sustained pressure that put Lyon’s defence on the ropes as Lejeune received the ball in the area on the right and played a chipped ball that took a nick off a defender on its way to Falcón who gratefully nodded home past the despairing Anthony Lopes. Falcón could well have notched his second for his new club shortly after had Lejeune, in an identical position, released the ball sooner to the Venezuelan in the centre but instead he was caught in two minds over whether to pass or shoot and when he eventually opted for the former, a defender managed to get in front of Falcón to clear.

Nevertheless, Metz’s fans were overjoyed to hear the final whistle that confirmed their side’s climb away from the relegation zone up to 14th and in front of the giants of Lyon, who capped off a miserable week in which they were knocked out of the Europa League to now find themselves in 17th, having lost three of their opening four fixtures. 

Saturday 30 August 2014

Ligue 1 

Nantes 1-0 Montpellier

Nantes got back to winning ways with Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and his defensive colleagues keeping up a rather miserly record as Fernando Aristeguieta again found himself forced to watch on – this time not featuring at all – as not one, but two forwards put in performances that will surely have been observed favourably by Armenian manager Michel Der Zacharian. Indeed, both the Israeli Etey Shechter and Yacine Bammou had chances in the first half, the former attempting to lob the goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren and the latter receiving a ball on the right edge of the area from Shechter to then powerfully cut inside past a defender and hit a hard left-footed shot that Jourdren parried out. However, in what was a rather even first half, Montpellier certainly had their chances too and could well have scored after Vizcarrondo’s pass upfield was intercepted and then brought up the left by Anthony Mounier who put in a low ball across the goalmouth that, had former Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios anticipated better, could well have been tapped into the gaping net instead of going out the other side. 

In the second half, the Shechter-Bammou front-line still looked propitious for Nantes, with the Israeli notably turning to hit a shot from an acute angle that was saved for a corner but he was to be substituted in the 71st minute for the previous week’s nearly-man, Serge Gakpé, who had a penalty saved against Monaco – eventual 1-0 winners courtesy of Radamel Falcao’s last meaningful contribution to Ligue 1. This week however, the Togolese international was to be the hero when, seven minutes after his arrival, Bammou picked up a ball on the right edge of the area and evaded a challenge to strike a low ball into the area that Gakpé teed up with his first touch, turning to then emphatically volley in for the win. After these performances of Bammou, Shechter and Gakpé, it would certainly be a surprise to see Aristeguieta in the starting line-up for Nantes’s away trip to Lille on 14 September.  

Bonus

Friday 5 September 2014

Friendly

Nantes 0-1 Stade Brestois

A friendly match against Ligue 2 opposition was scheduled and duly lost following a 49th-minute winner. Fernando Aristeguieta started this match, though as this occurred during the international break and in a line-up that only featured three of the starters last Sunday, it certainly does not represent any kind of recall for the Venezuelan. 

Venezuelans Abroad in Italy – Recap of Week 1 in Serie A

Italy

Serie A got underway last weekend and here, somewhat behind schedule, is what occurred from a Vinotinted perspective:

Sunday 31 August 2014

Serie A

Genoa 1-2 Napoli 

Running out to Gerry and the Pacemakers ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, Tomas Rincón made his league debut for Il Vecchio Balordo in a lively encounter that was not settled until the fifth minute of stoppage time. Rafael Benitez’s high-scoring Napoli started where they left off as after less than three minutes, the fruitful partnership of Gonzalo Higuaín and José Callejón again combined with the Argentine floating a ball across from the left to the Spaniard who, in acres of space inside the area, struck home a well-executed volley. However, for the rest of the first half Genoa had the majority of the chances with new Chilean signing Mauricio Pinilla the target man for crosses from the right by new Argentine acquisition Diego Perotti and Udinese-loanee Edenilson. Pinilla was very lively all game, eager to please his new fans and he gave them significant cause for optimism when, in the 39th minute, another cross was sent into the area – this time from the left – by Giovanni Marchese onto which the Chilean leapt high to nod home and put his side on equal terms at half-time.

In the early stages of the second-half, Rincón was involved in some midfield tussles, first with the young Brazilian Jorginho, from whom he received a high boot and a free-kick and then, in a rare instance of a skirmish between two number 88s, with Swiss international Gökhan Inler, who retaliated to Rincón aggressively holding him off and conceded another free-kick. Despite these minor midfield victories, Napoli certainly got back into the game in this half, with Higuain as well as French defender Kalidou Koulibaly having chances, but the most gilt-edged one fell to Lorenzo Insigne who was played clean through on goal in the 83rd minute by Belgian substitute Dries Mertens but shot straight at Mattia Perin. Despite this waste, Napoli ploughed on, giving Genoa no respite and must have been delighted to see five minutes of stoppage time go up on the electronic boards. Within the first additional minute, Mertens found some space inside the area on the left and hit a shot across the goalmouth, yet Napoli came closer three minutes later as Mertens again came forward on the left, striking a low shot that Perin got fingertips to which Higuain on the right then hooked back across goal, but no one was there to tap the ball in as it went agonisingly over to the other side. Naturally, most people inside the ground felt that the onslaught had been repelled, including most of Genoa’s back line it seems, as moments later they stood off debutant Jonathan de Guzmán as he received a cross from the left and was granted considerable time to giddily get the ball out of his feet and smash home a close-range winner at the very death. Numerous Genoa players including Rincón instinctively put their hands up for an offside call that was never going to come, but despite this cruel defeat they can certainly take heart from the performance they put in against last year’s third-placed side when they continue their tough opening to the season away to Fiorentina on 14 September. 

 

Sunday 31 August 2014

Serie A

Udinese 2-0 Empoli 

As the Stadio Fruili’s is still yet to be completed, just under 8000 fans watched Udinese defeat Empoli 2-0, thanks to two goals from Empoli youth-product and erstwhile goalscoring hero, Antonio Di Natale. Overall, the home side had the better of the chances with the skilful Colombian Luis Muriel – a man of much promise but who missed out on his nation’s impressive displays this summer – a creative catalyst and attacking threat throughout. His most notable first-half contribution occurred in the 13th minute when the Brazilian debutant Guilherme passed a short ball to him that, with a deadly instinctive dink, he rapidly chipped over the defence for Guilherme to run onto and volley low at the goalkeeper, Luigi Sepe, who stood up strong to the challenge. However, Empoli were certainly more in the game in the first half and had two close chances. The first of these came in the 37th minute and fell to Uruguayan Matías Vecino – yet another number 88 on show this weekend – who was afforded far too much space on the inside-right and shaped up for a left-footed strike that went just over, possibly grazing the bar along the way. Empoli’s second opportunity came just over five minutes later when Vecino crossed in a ball from the right that the 35 year-old Francesco Tavano will know he should have buried, but alas, his header went just wide from no more than six yards out. 

Five minutes into the second period, the evasive Muriel continued to create opportunities and played a great ball into the area from the right with the outside of his right boot that swerved towards Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, though the Ghanaian international could not quite get enough of his head onto the end of it to make it meaningful. However, in the 57th minute, the ever-reliable Di Natale – who had already had a goal ruled out for offside – gave Muriel’s work the end-product it deserved, as he received a subtle reverse-ball that nutmegged defender Lorenzo Tonelli and then steered it past Sepe. Five minutes later, no nuanced defence-splitting balls were necessary as, despite being under no pressure, French right-back Vincent Laurini played a suicidal pass back straight into the path of Di Natale on the edge of the area, who easily slotted it home for Udinese’s second. After this, the home side took their collective foot off the pedal somewhat, though their lead rarely looked to be under serious threat. Coming on for Vecino in the 70th minute, midfielder Franco Signorelli – who has recently earned his first call-up to the national side – joined the action and though he was often involved in the thick of the action on the park, this was usually while in the middle, and not the final, third. 

Sunday 31 August 2014

Serie A

Torino 0-0 Inter Milan

For match highlights, click here.

Josef Martínez did not make it off the bench in this goalless draw as Nemanja Vidić had a debut to forget for Inter Milan, first conceding a penalty and then later being red-carded, yet he was not alone in being bemused by both decisions. The penalty came after 20 minutes courtesy of what the referee Daniele Doveri must have adjudged to be a pull by the Serbian on the arm of Fabio Quagliarella – returning after nine years to the team he began his career with – though replays struggled to show any significant contact between the pair. The Argentine Marcelo Larrondo stepped up but his spot-kick was too close to the centre as Slovenian international goalkeeper Samir Handanovič lounged to an easy save to mark what was his 17th Serie A penalty save from the 56 he has faced. This spurned chance actually turned out to be the only shot on target in the first half as both teams struggled to create clear chances in a game that became increasingly ill-tempered as it wore on, with new-arrival Gary Medel responsible for a particularly bad – yet unpunished – foul from behind on Quagliarella after 39 minutes. 

There were no more than five additional shots on target in the second-half, yet neither side could make a breakthrough. Torino’s best opportunities came within five minutes of the restart as firstly Quagliarella played a fine through-ball 30 yards out to Larrondo whose attempted nudge was blocked by Handanovič and then two minutes later, Larrondo nodded down a cross from Matteo Darmian that Quagliarella hit on the turn with an instinctive snap-shot that went less than a yard wide. However, barring the penalty, Inter had the best opportunity to win the match when, after 68 minutes, the Brazilian Hernanes played through Southampton-loanee Dani Osvaldo whose close-range shot was blocked by goalkeeper Daniele Padelli yet would have rebounded to Medel had it not been for a great robust tackle from Alessandro Gazzi, who denied the Chilean a debut league goal. However, a game that only came to life in short bursts was to end without a winner, though it certainly finished with some controversy that began when, one minute into stoppage time, Vidić and Quagliarella chased a ball in the Inter half that ultimately went out for a goal-kick. As the ball crossed the line, the Italian appeared to push Vidić over but the pair soon shook hands afterwards, yet the ex-Manchester United player could then be seen sarcastically applauding the referee – most likely for not penalising the push, though it is unclear – and was duly sent off. Having not previously been yellow-carded, this was a straight red-card that was quite possibly for the perceived double-offence of both the applause and the doubtlessly critical words he shouted in the referee’s direction. Nevertheless, regardless of how the referee reached his decision, the Serbian is unsurprisingly fuming with how his debut for I Nerazzurri transpired.