Tag Archives: Europe

Venezuelans Abroad in Spain – Recap of Round 4 in the Primera División

Spain

Spain

Saturday 20 September 2014

Primera División

Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Granada

Match Summary

Athletic Bilbao suffered a Champions League hangover as their much-changed side slumped to their third defeat in four league games following an appalling defensive lapse that allowed the young Colombian Jhon Córdoba to score the winner after 39 minutes.

Córdoba’s first goal for Granada came after he seized upon Ander Iturraspe’s complacent nonchalance on the ball forty yards from the Bilbao goal to drive towards goal and nutmeg Gorka Iraizoz.

Córdoba’s first start of the campaign alongside the young Success Isaac in attack was Granada’s fourth different strike-partnership in as many games. One man who was sidelined by this latest experiment was Darwin Machís who, despite starting in the opening game of the season and being a half-time substitute last week, was demoted back to the B side to play in their 1-1 away draw against Cádiz. Granada’s reserve side compete in Segunda B’s Group 4 (of 4), so to call this the Spanish third-tier is debatable given the variance in quality from the top of each group to the bottom.

Nevertheless, as he did not play, one hopes to be forgiven for not giving a more comprehensive report of the first-team’s match, though should you to wish to read one, please click here.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Primera División

Espanyol 2-2 Málaga

Match Summary 

After his petulant opening-day dismissal, Portuguese veteran Duda redeemed himself by coming off the bench to score a wonderful equalising free-kick with the last kick of the game, providing Málaga with a slightly fortuitous point

Espanyol will feel hard done by as they would have fancied their chances against the last side they managed to beat in the league (albeit all the way back in March) and they did edge the number of chances, particularly within the first half.

Indeed, the less radical of Catalonia’s two top-flight sides looked sharper and in the early stages took advantage of what is becoming worryingly characteristic slack tracking and disorganisation from Málaga’s back line. After just six minutes, Espanyol captain Sergio García pressed at pace to take advantage of poor passing between Sergi Darder and Roberto Rosales – who started, with his compatriot Juan Pablo Añor not in the squad – in their own defensive third. Under duress, Rosales hesitantly nudged it short to Málaga captain Weligton on the edge of the area but his desperate recovery-slide merely fell to Víctor Sánchez who forced his way into the area before shooting low at Carlos Kameni.

Málaga did not heed warnings such as this and on 16 minutes were punished, with García again causing problems – this time being the architect of the opening goal. He ran infield with the ball from the right of the area, played a quick one-two with Madrid-loanee Lucas Vázquez and, from a central position just outside the area, found a gap to play through Ecuadorian Felipe Caicedo, playing against his former side, whose deft footwork grounded Kameni, leaving a vacant goal to tap into.

Right-back Rosales was one of a few defenders who did not seem entirely sure where he should be during that attack as he ran out to a central position, though credit must be given to García for such defence-bamboozling movement. Rosales, though to not to the same degree as he did against Levante, offered more going forward and ten minutes after the goal received a dinked ball from Darder on the right of the area which he fired across the goalmouth. This caused problems for goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, whose parry outwards fortunately did not fall to an attacker.

Despite this rare glimpse of hope for the away side, Espanyol nearly got a second after 36 minutes, following a corner from Vázquez. His cross swung to the back post with both Kameni and Rosales missing the ball and García, who anticipated it a mile off, headed it just wide – though had he stepped back a yard or so he may well have been in a better position to profit from this goalkeeping error. Kameni also received some criticism in certain quarters for supposedly going to ground too early for the goal so it will be interesting to see if he keeps his place in the line-up in upcoming weeks, as Guillermo Ochoa is always waiting in the wings.

In the opening stages of the second half, not a great deal had changed but irrespective of what level a team is playing at and who their opposition are, there is always hope from a set-piece. Indeed, out of nowhere, Los Boquerones got themselves back into the game in the 53rd minute when Luis Alberto’s corner was nodded into the back of the net by the unmarked Igancio Camacho.

Espanyol attempted to prove this was just a temporary blip in the natural order of things and just eight minutes later came close to regaining the lead following a corner won after Vázquez’s free shot on goal was parried out by Kameni. From the resulting cross, half-time substitute, the Uruguayan forward Christian Stuani, headed onto the bar. As the ball came back out, Salva Sevilla (who had been brought on two minutes prior) and García may have got in each other’s way as it fell further away from goal towards the inside-edge of the area. However, the drama was not over as Diego Colotto, back-to-goal, attempted to hook the ball over his head into the danger zone but it was blocked by the high arm of Rosales. The former FC Twente man knew exactly where the ball was, having his eyes on it as he leaped, thus bolstering any claims that it should have been a penalty, though apologists will surely claim that his turn away at the last moment proves his innocence and that it was accidental as he was possibly fearful of Colotto’s right boot connecting with him.

As the game wore on, things did become more tense for the visitors as they picked up five yellow cards in the final 30 minutes and watched Espanyol have more chances to regain the lead. Indeed, Stuani was played through by García in the 79th minute, though Kameni was out to block the forward’s nudged attempt with his legs and then, just a minute later, the Cameroonian goalkeeper was to save comfortably from a header from Salva Sevilla following a corner.

However, there was nothing Kameni could do about Stuani’s header with two minutes to go. The Uruguayan may have long played fourth or fifth fiddle on the international stage to his nation’s other impressive attacking options, but he must have been elated to score here what felt like the headline-grabbing goal, nodding in from a free-kick on the right, having lost his marker Sergio Sánchez. 

Ultimately though, it was not to be as Espanyol were to be denied their first league victory in six months as 67th-minute substitute Duda curled a textbook free-kick into the top right-hand corner in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time.

Venezuelan Abroad in Russia – Recap of Round 8

Russia

russia

Saturday 20 September 2014

Russian Premier League

FK Rostov 0-5 Zenit St. Petersburg

Match Summary

A hapless defence enabled Zenit to ease to a comprehensive thrashing, with two of the goals coming from Rostov players at the wrong end and the other three from the feet of Salomón Rondón.

The Venezuelan forward needed to get back to scoring ways after a relative drought of five games (three for Zenit, two for the national side) without a goal and was always likely to find opportunities against opponents who have already been victims of 7-3 and 6-0 hidings.

The first goal came after 11 minutes as Danny’s corner was glanced on by Javi García and Rondón managed to gain some space to slide home the ball past Croatian World Cup goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa.

The second was a farce that could be featured on any Own Goals and Gaffes video (you can watch it here in isolation, should you so wish). Danny powered forward up the inside-left from the halfway line up to the edge of the area, where he passed centrally to Oleg Shatov and, with nobody tracking his run, received a rapidly dispatched through-ball to put him one-on-one with Pletikosa. The Croatian managed to get something on the Portuguese’s shot which slowed down the ball’s pace as it headed goalwards yet, despite having time on his side to make a clearance, South African defender Siyanda Xulu instead sliced the ball into the back of his own net. The onrushing Rondón could not help but emit a cheeky smile as with 37 minutes gone, it was 2-0 to the visitors and a familiar story was emerging for both the hosts and the visitors.

Just before the hour mark, Rondón’s second and Zenit’s third came, following good work by Viktor Fayzulin. Indeed, the Russian international ran up the left, passed a short ball to Domenico Criscito whose clever back-flick played him into space to put in a good ball from near the byline. Fayzulin’s cross was poorly dealt with by two defenders whose poor communication led to the ball falling kindly to Rondón who, from a central position 11 yards out, confidently side-footed the ball home with his left peg.

Five minutes later, Zenit’s creative captain Danny was substituted off, though it is unknown whether the injury he allegedly picked up is anything serious. Nevertheless, with Andrey Arshavin on in his place, the league-leaders continued their rout and benefited from another comical, if unfortunate, own goal after 71 minutes. This time Hulk, on the right near the corner flag, swung in a free-kick with his left foot that bounced in the centre before being headed back by Ezequiel Garay straight towards the head of defender Vitaliy Djakov. In the nano-seconds that he had to react to this incoming ball, he twisted his forehead slightly to his right, thus glancing the ball goalwards past the unsuspecting Pletikosa.

The final goal that completed Rondón’s hat-trick and the 5-0 pounding came just two minutes later, once again showcasing some swift attacking, amateurish tracking and clinical finishing. Shatov ran onto a cutting through-ball on the right, waltzing into the area before cutting back the ball into the area – leaving an outstretched defender stranded en-route – where the unmarked Venezuelan had time to compose himself and then hit a strong right-foot strike into the corner from 10 yards out.

Overall, Zenit made light work of very weak opposition, maintaining their 6-point lead at the top of the table and extending their winning streak to eight wins in eight matches which, if European games are included, comes to a phenomenal 12 consecutive wins. While it is starting to seem difficult to see where Zenit could possibly slip up, one may wish to restrain oneself with the superlatives until they are immersed in their Champions League games and then we will see what, if any, effect this has on their domestic campaign.

Venezuelans Abroad in Spain – Recap of Round 3 in the Primera División

Spain

Spain

Saturday 13 September 2014

Primera División

Málaga 0-0 Levante

Match Summary

Los Boquerones were left frustrated and aggrieved after they were denied a victory, despite racking up a hatful of chances and having a goal from Juanmi incorrectly disallowed for the second week in a row.

It seems somewhat futile to list all their chances in this one-sided encounter and readers would be much better advised to just watch the embedded highlights above, though if they are unable in your region, here follows a brief summary.

Portuguese left-back Antunes had an early left-footed cross-shot that nearly caught out Jesús Fernández at the near post, but was just about parried out for a corner. Luis Alberto picked up a ball in the final third and drove a low right-footed strike from 25 yards out that was palmed wide by Fernández’s outstretched gloves. Roberto Rosales was played into the area on the right by Ricardo Horta and gained some considerable space by turning a defender and then having a close-range shot from a narrow angle with his less-favoured left foot that Fernández did well to get a hand on.

This game was the best since arriving at Málaga for Rosales to demonstrate his attacking abilities, though his compatriot Juan Pablo Añor was left on the bench after making his debut last week.

Continuing with the attempts, Luis Alberto received a short pass from Roque Santa Cruz just inside the area in a central position and crashed the top of the crossbar with a thunderous strike. Soon after, Ricardo Horta turned on the right just outside the area and hit a low left-footed attempt that was again palmed wide. Luis Alberto had yet another attempt before the end of the first half, cutting inside on the other angle of the penalty area, and hitting a testing right-footed shot that Fernández again made a low outstretched dive to palm wide.

The second half saw more of the same, with Ignacio Camacho and later Roque Santa Cruz having good headed chances. The former was a free-header that went straight at the goalkeeper and the latter came from a knock-back 10 yards out that the Paraguayan will feel he should have at least got on target rather than heading a yard wide of the post.

Other chances were missed, but it was Juanmi’s second disallowed goal in two games that will certainly be the memory most fans come away with. He received a strongly hit low cross from Rosales just inside the area on the right and rapidly turned to fire home yet, despite replays showing he was being played on, this goal was ruled offside.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Primera División

Granada 0-0 Villarreal

Match Summary

It was not until the 58th minute that both teams managed to register an attempt on target and though this encounter came gradually more to life as the final half-hour ticked down, ultimately neither side was able to make the breakthrough.

Granada, missing Youssef El-Arabi up front, partnered last week’s promising debutant Success Isaac with summer-signing Alfredo Ortuño but, in the first half at least, were content to defend deep and soak up their opponents’ pressure – a common approach of sides managed by the experienced Joaquín Caparrós.

Despite El Submarino Amarillo having nearly two-thirds of first-half possession, it was the home side who had the best opportunity and, rare for them, the source of this was not a cross or set-piece from Fran Rico. Indeed, the former Real Madrid reserve was to swing in many testing balls but this particular chance was a cross from captain Piti after less than three minutes that the young Isaac should have made a firmer connection with, but he instead saw his header go meekly wide of the far post.

This miss may have contributed to Isaac’s slightly surprising half-time substitution, as he was replaced by Venezuela’s very own Darwin Machís who was to gradually come more into the game and contributed to some decent chances for his side.

The second half’s comparative chance-fest began on 53 minutes when Villarreal’s Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista got his side’s first effort on target, heading powerfully from the penalty spot to cause a spectacular, if comfortable, tip over the bar from Roberto.

Granada evened up the chances column five minutes later after the French-born Cameroonian Allan Nyom – who was to grow more into the game, putting in a few notable crosses – curled a ball just inside the area that Ortuño sneaked a head onto, though his position made it difficult for it to be anything other than a comfortable save for Asenjo.

This seemed to galvanise Granada’s confidence when going forwards as a couple of minutes later, Machís ran up the left towards the area, though as Rubén Rochina’s poor movement failed to provide an option for him, the Venezuelan ran into trouble. Attempting to win the ball back, he committed a rash foul on Mateo Musaccio that could well have resulted in a red card on another day, though mercifully the colour of the card the referee brandished here was yellow. Just a minute later, Machís dusted himself off and nearly got onto the end of another dipping Nyom cross from the right. The former Mineros man attempted to strike this on the the volley from the edge of the area, but unfortunately was unable to make a genuine connection with the ball.

Despite Granada enjoying greater possession in the final third, they nearly gifted Villarreal a goal on 71 minutes when Jean-Sylvain Babin passed back to goalkeeper Roberto who made a complete hash of his clearance, scuffing it up into the air rendering him unaware of where it was heading as it spiralled back down. Substitute Denis Cheryshev nearly profited from this error, charging forwards to pounce though his stabbed challenge/shot narrowly missed the target and caused Roberto to attempted to cover his embarrassment by fuming at the Russian for the manner in which he attempted to gain an advantage.

Five minutes later, Machís had his best moment of the game, taking on Mario Gaspar on the left and running past him into the area where he put in a testing low cross that Asenjo could not get two hands on. Consequently, the ball bobbled in the goalmouth area and the 17 year-old debutant Adrián Marín just about managed to come over from his position on the left of defence to clear before any onrushing attackers could nudge the ball home.

In the last five minutes, though the Villarreal threat was still always there, the home side managed to get a few more decent chances on goal. Firstly, on 85 minutes, Colombian forward Jhon Córdoba – who had only just come on to make his debut and whose goal record and reputation does suggest there is something of the Emile Heskey about him – did well to gain some space from Paulista in the area to fire a hard shot from an angle that was parried for a corner. Soon after, Fran Rico – possibly tired of team-mates not getting on the end of his balls, possibly mishitting the cross – dipped a set-piece on the left 40 yards out with his right foot that curled high and nearly caught out Asenjo who had no choice but to tip it over. Subsequently, and finally, Rico then trotted over to the corner spot and crossed in an outswinger that Colombian defender Jeison Murillo, in space just eight yards out, headed powerfully but much too close to Asenjo, who gratefully caught it as the game ended goalless.

Venezuelans Abroad in Italy – Recap of Round 2 in Serie A

Italy

Italy

Goals certainly went in last weekend in Serie A but sadly only one of these was to be found in a game featuring a Venezuelan. Furthermore, collectively the three representatives of La Vinotinto did not see as much game-time as would normally be expected, which is largely believed to be due to them having travelled such long distances to, in and from Asia for their international matches the previous week.

Saturday 13 September 2014 

Serie A

Empoli 0-1 Roma

For Video Highlights, click here.

Match Summary

The newly promoted hosts were forced to resort to shots from distance as their opponents, with an eye on their midweek Champions League clash, were able to rest several players including Francesco Totti and Gervinho and still pick up a narrow victory courtesy of an own goal that many wiill prefer to see credited to the impressive Belgian international, Radja Nainggolan.

Not long before the goal, Nainggolan also played a driving role in sponsor-less Roma’s other most notable attack, which occurred in the 41st minute. After winning a crunching tackle in midfield, he came forward and crossed a well-weighted ball in from the right that Alessandro Florenzi headed diagonally across the goalmouth that Maicon ran onto but somehow hooked against the back post when the goal was gaping. From the rebound, the ball fell to the onrushing Miralem Pjanić who blasted a shot that was blocked by a desperate-yet-determined combination of Lorenzo Tonelli and Vincent Laurini; the Bosnian international claimed that he was fouled in the ensuing skirmish but Empoli were to remain on level terms for at least several minutes longer.

That was until first-half stoppage-time when Pjanić played a short cross-field pass to Nainggolan 25 yards out and he struck a low drive that came off the foot of the post, only to hit the back of goalkeeper Luigi Sepe’s head and rebound into the net. 1-0 to the capital’s leading club and, considered alongside his goal and assist on the opening day against Fiorentina, a great start to Nainggolan’s season following the formalisation of his summer move from Cagliari.

Empoli’s optimistic long-range efforts came mainly from Francesco Tavano in a game which Franco Signorelli observed from the bench. The Venezuelan was doubtless on a high following his recent international debut, though travel may well have taken its toll. He will be more likely to feature this coming weekend when his side will feel they have a good chance to get off the bottom of the table when they travel to fellow recent arrivals, Cesena.

Sunday 14 September 2014 

Serie A

Sampdoria 2-0 Torino

For Video Highlights, click here.

Image Source: StopAndGoal

Match Summary

Two impressive goals, one coming in each half from Italians Manolo Gabbiadini and Stefano Okaka, ensured Siniša Mihajlović’s Sampdoria got off to a winning start at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. This no doubt pleased their visionary movie producer-president Massimo Ferrero, whose deal with a film distribution company led to Sin City 3D being promoted on his team’s shirts.

Gabbiadini’s goal came on 34 minutes from a free-kick that was curled from the dee around the wall low into the bottom left-hand corner and later on in the match he was to smash the crossbar with another powerfully hit set-piece.

Though second-best, Torino were nevertheless in the game with Fabio Quagliarella and Marcelo Larrondo leading the attack, yet when they made an attacking substitution just after the hour, it was the Brazil-born recipient of a solitary Italian cap, Amauri, who was first brought on to make his debut, with Larrondo coming off. The 34 year-old former Juventus man was signed just before the transfer window closed, though given his age Josef Martínez should try not to be too concerned and instead see this as an opportunity to learn from an experienced pro in a league that not so long ago was notorious for frustrating strikers.

Martínez patiently waited his turn and was later substituted on for Quagliarella in the 77th to make his Serie A debut, yet any dreams of becoming an instant hero were soon dashed when Sampdoria scored their second two minutes later. Indeed, Okaka turned into space on the right-flank and easily took the ball past Polish defender Kamil Glik – who may well have been struggling to mentally re-adjust himself after playing in a 7-0 thrashing of Gibraltar in midweek – and then fired home from an angled position to seal the 2-0 victory. 

Sunday 14 September 2014 

Serie A

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa

For Video Highlights, click here.

Match Summary

With 8 shots on target (from a total of 18) to their opponents’ 1 (from 5), Fiorentina had the bulk of the opportunities but were unable to make the breakthrough, as Genoa managed to hold on and get a point when defeat often seemed a formality. That it remained goalless was all the more surprising when one takes into account the 3-3 draw that occurred in this fixture last season, not to mention the 5-2 Fiorentina victory enjoyed at Genoa’s ground nearly a year ago.

Alberto Aquilani, Borja Valero, Khouma Babacar and especially Juan Cuadrado were all a frequent menace to the Genoa defensive lines, regularly running directly through the midfield with ease and creating numerous chances throughout the game. Their best of the first half came after 15 minutes when Aquilani – who, incidentally, was the only Italian in the home side’s line-up – put in a graceful cross from the right that dipped kindly six yards out for Mario Gómez. However, the injury-hit German was unable to make meaningful contact with the ball as it instead hit a combination of his chin and chest before going tamely wide.

Little was seen of Genoa as an attacking threat in the opening half as they were preoccuppied with repelling attacks. Due to being frequently overrun in midfield, manager Gian Piero Gasperini took off the yellow-carded Andre Bertolacci at half-time and replaced him with ‘Gattuso 2.0’, Tomás Rincón, who was most likely omitted from the line-up due to the travel involved with the preceding week’s international duty. However, though the visitors did get a little more into the game, the onslaught, if anything, increased with Cuadrado continuing to shine as goalkeeper Mattero Perin was required to put in a man of the match performance to thwart the Viola. Rincón, like Bertolacci, was to find himself regularly on the back foot struggling to halt Cuadrado’s trickery, unpredictable runs and movements, as he picked up a booking in the 78th minute for tripping the Colombian on the turn just outside the area. Just over five minutes prior, another South American, Rincón’s team-mate, the Argentine defender Facundo Roncaglia, also had great difficulties dealing with Cuadrado. He was penalised for holding him back near the halfway line, thus receiving his second yellow card and walking off to a smattering of applause from fans of the home team who actually hold his registration.

Despite Fiorentina’s dominance, Gasperini’s men did nearly score after 64 minutes when Edenilson robbed Cuadrado and Valero in his own half and ran down the right side, playing a one-two before crossing in for Mauricio Pinilla whose acrobatic scissor-kick bounced before going narrowly over the crossbar. The Chilean forward can be praised for this effort but was to spend the majority of this match in isolation, disappointed by the dearth of service from the flanks, which was in marked contrast to the season’s opener against Napoli.

Ultimately though, despite these frustrations, Genoa will be more than pleased with the point they earned and it was largely Perin who they have to thank for this. Indeed, his heroics were especially required in stoppage time when, in quick succession from two corners, he tipped over Gonzalo Rodriguez’s rasping shot from the edge of the area and, subsequently, gratefully clung on to a header from debutant Filippo Bernardeschi that was powerful yet lacking in direction. Thus, Genoa travel back north with a point some will feel they did not deserve and will continue their difficult start to the season with a home game this weekend against Lazio.

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 

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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

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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.

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Image Source: FC Aarau Official Site