Tag Archives: Yonathan Del Valle

Venezuela 2-2 Argentina– CONMEBOL Qualification Stage for FIFA World Cup 2018 (6 September 2016)

The eighth matchday of La Vinotinto’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign yielded one point more than anticipated yet two less than many Venezuelans felt attainable at half-time. Here, Hispanospherical.com provides a full match report plus thoughts…

CONMEBOL Qualifying Stage for FIFA World Cup 2018

Tuesday 6 September 2016 – El Estadio Metropolitano de Mérida, Mérida State

Venezuela 2-2 Argentina

Video Highlights of Venezuela 2-2 Argentina, 6 September 2016, CONMEBOL Qualifying Stage for FIFA World Cup 2018 (YouTube)

Mixed Emotions for Both Sides as Juanpi Announces Himself on the International Stage

Match Report

‘Bottom versus top’ could have been mistaken for ‘seventh versus eighth’ as what began as a tepid affair ended as a slugfest with Venezuela being denied a famous victory.

La Vinotinto went into the game with just one point, having just been comfortably dispatched 2-0 by neighbours Colombia, yet really needing to raise the morale of their compatriots in the Andean city of Mérida. Pace-setters Argentina were thus hardly the ideal opponents. However, the hosts were far from overawed in the opening half and with each passing period of play, the pre-game predictions of a pounding proved increasingly preposterous.

Indeed, the first threat they had to contend with – the closest Edgardo Bauza’s men came all half – occurred in the 16th minute. Inter Milan new-boy Éver Banega received a pass centrally, quickly turned and from 25 yards out struck a low drive that went just wide of the far post. Banega often appeared to be one of his side’s likeliest catalysts for a goal as at times he enjoyed plenty of midfield space in which to roam before searching for a key, incisive pass – though this latter, crucial phase largely proved elusive.

Ángel Di María, with his tormenting runs down the wing and balls into the area, was a more noticeable threat in the first period. Just after the 20th minute, he crossed in a fine ball for Lucas Pratto, but the Atlético Mineiro striker – playing in part due to the absences of several more high-profile strikers – stretched but could not make a meaningful connection. He certainly did, however, in the 32nd minute, when he met Di María’s cross but his solid header was a little too close to goalkeeper Dani Hernández, who managed to get his body behind it.

The hosts’ early chances were hardly much more threatening. Rafael Dudamel’s men sometimes resorted to pumping long balls towards star striker Salomón Rondón, but this rarely proved propitious, even if it was a cunning way of bypassing Javier Mascherano. The West Bromwich Albion forward did nevertheless have his country’s first opportunity of note when, after 21 minutes, he received the ball just outside the area. However, although some space opened up for him, it was not enough to warrant the headlines that must have been swirling in his head; he may have shaped up with intent but his tame shot trickled goalwards for goalkeeper Sergio Romero to gratefully collect.

One Venezuelan causing more problems for the Argentine back-line was Rondón’s strike-partner, Josef Martínez. He regularly beat defenders for pace, causing uncertainty as well as winning throws and corners. In the 23rd minute, he was especially of concern when he received a pass in the area and soon hit the deck, but his penalty claim was waved away.

The other leading attacking threat for the hosts in this half was the man who was to break the deadlock. The profile of Juan Pablo ‘Juanpi’ Añor has been rising since he made his Málaga debut two years ago, with last season’s exploits really helping him emerge to prominence in La Liga. Aiding his cause in particular during that campaign were three goals in consecutive weeks (including one against Barcelona) and he is already off the mark for 2016/17. With the experienced Alejandro Guerra and Luis Manuel Seijas not part of this particular squad, he has been provided with opportunities to bolster his claims for a first-team spot in midfield. Overall, he has taken them.

Yet though he is capable of pinpoint accuracy from dead-ball situations, thankfully his largely wayward set-pieces throughout this half are unlikely to be used as arguments against future starts. Indeed, it is more the events in the 35th minute that shall be uppermost in most people’s minds when the line-up for the trip to Uruguay in October is being mulled over.

As befitting a largely listless half, it came almost out of nowhere. Rondón’s low cross in from the right was cut out before being immediately knocked back to the edge of the area, where it fell to the feet of Juanpi. Two players quickly tried to close him down yet somehow he bundled his way through them, before making some space for himself on the right corner of the area. Judging by the reaction of at least one Argentine defender, they did not consider him a serious threat from this position. Big mistake. Before anyone could get near enough to him, he unleashed a phenomenal strike that scorched past Romero and nearly burst the top corner of the net. The crowd erupted and the 22-year-old diminutive Málaga maestro was mobbed by his team-mates, both starters and subs alike. His first international goal, his formal arrival on this stage; aficionados of this balletic young man’s career will have been aware that it bore more than a slight resemblance to his first ever club goal against Levante in January 2015. Now, all Venezuelans know that no matter how bleak their nation’s prospects often seem, there will always be reason to keep an eye on them so long as the likes of Juanpi are in embryo.

Just four minutes later, Dudamel’s men nearly enhanced the euphoria in the ground to unprecedented levels. Rondón helped the ball on to Alexander González on the right inside the area. The Huesca right-back quickly slid the ball into the goalmouth where Josef Martínez was waiting and the goal was a-gaping, yet the Torino striker was narrowly beaten to the ball by Pablo Zabaleta, who managed to clear.

Thus, when the half-time whistle blew, the hosts had to resign themselves to being just 1-0 up against the No. 1 ranked side in the world. In the ever-bewildering and screen-throttling social media world, more than a few were quick to denigrate Venezuela’s lead by pointing out that Lionel Messi was missing and that this was a ‘depleted’ Argentine team. Risible claims, as aside from two attacking players, this was virtually a first-choice Albiceleste XI and, as no Venezuelan was staggered to observe, the hosts had problems of their own. Indeed, they made four changes from the Colombia loss, all of which were forced upon Dudamel: three of the four defenders were out (two due to suspensions, one due to injury) and one of the defensive-midfielders (suspended) was also unavailable. Such absences made their lead and hitherto ability to repel trouble all the more impressive.

Yet when the second half kicked off, the visitors returned with more intent to extricate themselves from the mire that they had slipped in. Much anticipation greeted Banega’s free-kick in the 50th minute, but when he finally took it, the ball sailed comfortably over. The hosts were nevertheless able to withstand such pressure and not long afterwards they broke free up the other end where Rondón nearly fed in Martínez, but the latter had his run abruptly blocked off.

However, shortly afterwards in the 53rd minute, the same combination sent the stands into raptures. The nation’s talisman robbed a hapless defender flailing in the Mérida rain and strode into the area, where he slipped a short pass to his Serie A-based partner who, with the visitors on the back foot, was afforded acres of space. Had he desired to, Martínez would have had time to whip out the day’s paper and read his horoscopes before pulling the trigger; regardless of what it would have said, the Torino man certainly would have felt it was his lucky day when his well-placed shot hit the back of the net. 2-0.

Over the next 20 minutes or so, the hosts celebrated their dizzying lead by going immediately on the defensive as Argentina raised their game and/or Venezuela pondered the ‘2-0 is the most dangerous lead in football’ cliché for a bit too long. Given such a change in approach, it came as little surprise when the visitors halved the deficit in the 58th minute. Here, Erik Lamela was gifted plenty of space to slide the ball through to Pratto in the area. Despite having left-back Mikel Villanueva and centre-back Sema Velázquez seemingly on his case, it seemed a little too easy for him. He nudged the ball forward and it ricocheted off Villanueva back to him in slightly more space and he simply toe-poked it goalwards past the possibly blindsided Hernández. 2-1. Game well and truly on.

Bauza’s men thus went on the hunt for an equaliser. Some more shaky goalkeeping from Hernández from a corner was to follow not long afterwards and the visitors were not too far from catching him out in the 66th minute. Here, Banega, on the inside-left just outside the area, went for a cross-shot which rebounded kindly off a defender, thus necessitating the Tenerife goalkeeper to scramble over to ensure his near post was covered. He got there just in time to block out the resultant shot that Di María fired from an acute angle from inside the area on the left.

One rare reprieve from the pressure came after 74 minutes when the much-touted 19-year-old Adalberto Peñaranda burst forward and gave a rare glimpse of why he made so many headlines at Granada last season. In a characteristically direct run, he passed through a few Argentine shirts before being cynically fouled not far from the area. This bought his nation some time, though the free-kick was duly squandered.

With the clock not ticking fast enough, Dudamel made some changes yet his second, replacing Martínez with Ecuador-based Jacobo Kouffaty, unfortunately did not reap the desired dividends. Indeed, officially he lasted no more than three minutes before succumbing to an injury and being replaced by Yonathan Del Valle in the 81st minute.

Compounding Kouffaty’s misery, as he was walking dejectedly along the sidelines, Di María whipped in a low corner which was clinically struck into the back of the net to level things up. Manchester City’s Nicolás Otamendi beat his centre-back counterpart Velázquez to the ball and restored some pride for his nation. Now, they were favourites to snatch all three points.

Ultimately, although they certainly put the jitters up their hosts, it was in fact Venezuela who came closest to emerging victorious in a five-goal thriller. First, with five minutes remaining, Juanpi curled in a free-kick from the right with his left boot which Romero went to catch but was easily beaten in the air by Rondón – unfortunately for the latter, his header also comfortably cleared the crossbar when it seemed as if with a bit more direction, he could well have won the game.

It was a let-off for the Manchester United goalkeeper and yet with a minute of regulation time left, he somehow had time to emerge relatively unscathed from an even greater howler. This time, Juanpi’s central free-kick from range bounced harmlessly through to the out-of-favour stopper, yet perhaps his rustiness affected him, as he was slow in anticipating the ball’s trajectory. Instead of catching it, the ball caught him by surprise and bounced off his chest and straight to Villanueva. The 23-year-old Atlético Malagueño left-back instinctively struck at the ball in textbook centre-forward fashion; he had Romero well beat but unfortunately his effort cannoned straight back off the near post.

Alas, the final whistle soon blew and it was greeted by both sides with a mixture of emotions. The visitors’ comeback could not mask the fact that they had once again struggled to contend with the absence of Messi and had been displaced from their perch, now finding themselves 3rd in the CONMEBOL standings. For the hosts, while it is a credible point, they will surely feel that they could have added a little more dignity to their campaign by gaining their first victory.

With Peru having beaten Ecuador 1-0, Venezuela now find themselves five points adrift at the bottom on a paltry two points. Although ten games still remain, as Dudamel’s men are 11 points away from the play-off spot (5th), sights are undoubtedly now set on Qatar 2022 and not Russia 2018. Building a new team with the likes of Juanpi at its core will be uppermost in the manager’s thoughts. After all, next month will involve a trip to Uruguay (1st) and a home clash against Brazil (2nd); Rome was indeed not built in a day.

To keep up-to-date with the Venezuelan football world, feel free to follow @DarrenSpherical on Twitter. 

Team Selections

Venezuela (4-4-2): D. Hernández; A. González (V. García, 71′), O. Vizcarrondo, S. Velázquez, M. Villanueva; Juanpi, T. Rincón,  A. Flores, A. Peñaranda; S. Rondón & J. Martínez (J. Kouffaty, 78′) (Y. Del Valle, 81′).

Argentina (4-2-3-1): S. Romero; P. Zabaleta, N. Otamendi, R. Funes Mori, M. Rojo (N. Gaitán, 83′); J. Mascherano, L. Biglia (L. Alario, 71′); E. Lamela (Á. Correa, 67′), É. Banega, Á. Di María; L. Pratto.

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

Mexico 1-1 Venezuela -Copa América Centenario Group C (13 June 2016)

With the group stage complete, Venezuelans are slightly disappointed to have finished 2nd. Who would have thought…?

Copa América Centenario Group C

Monday 13 June 2016 – NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas, USA

Mexico 1-1 Venezuela 

Video Highlights of Mexico 1-1 Venezuela, Copa América Centenario Group C, 13 June 2016 (YouTube).

Corona Thwarts Resilient Venezuela 

Venezuela narrowly missed out on an unprecedented third consecutive Copa América victory, as Jesús Corona’s late strike means Rafael Dudamel’s men finish 2nd in Group C and will most likely face Argentina in the Quarter-Finals.

Up until the 80th minute, it looked as if La Vinotinto were going to defy the odds yet again as they put in a fine defensive performance, soaking up huge amounts of pressure and once more dispelling the myth that Venezuelans lack mental fortitude. The fact that they were facing a Mexico side with nine changes to their previous line-up should do little to undermine their achievement – especially as they themselves had made five, including consigning star man Salomón Rondón to the bench.

In contrast to their other two group games, Dudamel’s charges were quicker off the mark, with the opening goal coming after just 10 minutes. This time, Alejandro Guerra’s free-kick from the left was curled into the area where Christian Santos – making his debut in the tournament – headed the ball back towards centre-back Sema Velázquez. The Portugal-based centre-back, himself fielded instead of Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, was afforded an obscene amount of space to fire home a sensational bicycle kick. This was certainly not what the sea of green in the stands had eagerly paid months in advance of kick-off to see. Yet thrilled though the minority of Venezuelans were at the time, it could not have been long before a few cautious sorts began to contemplate the cliché regarding scoring ‘too early’. Indeed, if they were going to beat El Tri for the first ever time, they knew a lot of defensive work was going to be required.

That said, though Juan Carlos Osorio’s side had more of the ball in the first half, the quality of the chances they created certainly did not reward the voluminous and nerve-jangling support they received. Also, owing to the number of bodies they often committed forward, they were occasionally vulnerable on the break.

Indeed,  in the 22nd minute, a slight fright was provided by one Yonathan Del Valle, who from the left hustled his way into the area and struck a rasping shot which swerved wide of the far post. It was one of a few occasions that the Kasımpaşa attacker was to both remind the hardcore of his abilities as well as introduce himself to thousands, if not millions, of fans who may have missed him first time around. After all, this was a remarkable personal story, as it was the player’s first international appearance for four years, going back to June 2012 when the then-22 year-old was considered a potential star of the future. Yet, just a year ago around the time of his 25th birthday, angered by the subsequent lack of opportunities and being overlooked by then-manager Noel Sanvicente, he resigned from the national team. However, the tables appeared to have turned as while he faces much competition at the top of the field, one suspects that this will not be his final outing in the burgundy shirt.

Returning to the action, though it felt to many Venezuelans that just one error could bring them swiftly back down to earth, Mexico continued to threaten without really making the opposition goalkeeper work too hard. Their opportunities were no more than half-chances, such as in the 34th minute when Jorge Torres crossed in for Jesús Corona whose diving header went straight to Dani Hernández. Or four minutes later when Héctor Herrera’s corner was headed by Héctor Moreno against the arm of defender Wilker Ángel – claims were made, but nothing was given.

When the half-time whistle blew, plenty of Venezuelan fans were left daydreaming about the further kudos from unexpected quarters that three consecutive 1-0 victories would bring their nation.

After the restart, the game continued with Mexico dominating the play and they were to get closer and closer to the target as the final whistle approached. One early notable moment was in the 50th minute when Porto full-back Miguel Layún played a one-two on the left inside the area and slid it along the goalmouth where it looked like it was going to be a tapped in by Oribe Peralta. However, centre-back Ángel once again got himself in the way, this time rather dramatically as his extremely low diving head diverted the ball off for a corner. A fine example of a player putting himself on the line for his country.

There was little respite for Venezuela as in the 57th minute on the inside-right 30 yards out, Corona picked up the ball and struck hard with his left but his shot went several yards wide. Then, just after the hour-mark, Layún from 25 yards out hit a fearsome shot that Hernández simply punched as far away outside of his area as possible.

Three minutes later, a better chance was created as Layún played in a low ball from the left. Rolf Feltscher’s attempted clearance went straight to Jesús Molina who, first-time, instinctively hit the ball and had to watch it trickle agonisingly wide of the far post.

However, just before this moment, Del Valle had managed to get away from his marker to hit a low strike at the goalkeeper and, a few minutes later, his replacement Josef Martínez had a golden opportunity to double his nation’s lead. Indeed, the Torino forward was slid through just inside the area, yet though he had plenty to aim for, he struck far too close to goalkeeper José Corona.

Venezuela were made to rue this miss and were nearly back on level terms in the 75th minute when Herrera’s free-kick in from the right met the head of Diego Reyes. However, Hernández earned plaudits around the globe for his astonishing double-save as he stretched down low to thwart and then, with the goal gaping, also blocked out the rebound whilst on the floor.

Nevertheless, Mexico kept up the onslaught. In the 79th minute Corona embarked upon a fine run on the left, powering through the Venezuelan back-line before striking wide from the left of the area. La Vinotinto survived, though not for long as barely a minute later the tenacious Porto youngster roamed infield from the left before taking the ball directly past four or five players and then blasting home for a sensational equaliser. The Venezuelan rearguard, which up until this point had seemed inpenetrable, was made to look all-too-mortal by this humbling. It was a great moment of relief for the El Tri faithful.

However, though their opponents were on the ropes for the remainder of the game, they did not merely lay down and invite the inevitable. Instead, with just over five minutes left, out of nowhere Martínez chested and teed himself up for an overhead kick, which dipped tantalisingly and had to be parried out for a corner.

Nevertheless, it was generally Mexico who were on the front-foot and with two minutes left, they came close to completing the reversal. This time, a ball was pulled back from the right-hand byline for substitute and fan-favourite Javier Hernández. However, though ‘Chicarito’ had a fair amount of the goal to aim for, Velázquez managed to get in his way and block his shot.

Thus, when the final whistle went, though they no longer had a 100 per cent record in the tournament and had in fact experienced their first draw after 11 consecutive wins, Mexico could console themselves with their first-placed finish. However, if as seems likely, Chile finish 2nd in Group D,  one can not help but wonder if a meeting with last year’s winners is really much of a reward for Mexico emerging victorious from their own group.

For Venezuela, however, just being in the knock-out phase seems like a prize in itself. Also, though they will face some sublime attacking talent, they will have picked up plenty of confidence from the way their players have absorbed so much pressure in the past three games, conceding just one goal.

One can not help but wonder if these strengths will be crucial for La Vinotinto as they enter a stage of the tournament in which, for the quarter- and semi-finals at least, matches level after 90 minutes go straight to penalties.

To find out how Venezuela get on, remember to keep up-to-date with @DarrenSpherical and this website.

Team Selections

Mexico (4-5-1): José Corona; P. Aguilar, D. Reyes, H. Moreno, J. Torres (M. Layún, 46;); H. Lozano, H. Herrera, J. Molina (J. Hernández, 68′), A. Guardado, J. Aquino (Jesús Corona, 18′); O. Peralta.

Venezuela (4-4-2): D. Hernández; A. González, S. Velázquez, W. Ángel, R. Feltscher; A. Guerra (R. Otero, 83′), T. Rincón, L. Seijas, A. Peñaranda; C. Santos (S. Rondón, 78′) & Y. Del Valle (J. Martínez, 65′).

Darren Spherical

@DarrenSpherical

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 – 30 Aug 2014 Midweek Round-up (UEFA Europa League)

Thursday 28 August 2014

UEFA Europa League – Play-off Second Leg

Rio Ave 1-0 IF Elfsborg (2-2 on aggregate; Rio Ave through on away goals)

The early Portuguese pace-setters sensationally made it through to the group stage of the Europa League for the first ever time with one of the most Route One goals you will have seen since Luis Suarez’s second and – some might say, tragically – last goal in the World Cup against England. It had been a very frustrating match for the home side when, in the second minute of stoppage time, goalkeeper Cássio pumped a clearance upfield that a Swedish Steven Gerrard played into the box with a defence-splitting header which was then opportunistically poked into the net by Esmaël Gonçalves. Yonathan Del Valle was not available for this game due to injury but he will have an opportunity to star in the group phase as Rio Ave have been drawn in the tough Group J, alongside the perennially awkward Dynamo Kiev and two sides who fell at the final hurdle of Champions League qualification, Steaua Bucharest and Aalborg. 

Thursday 28 August 2014

UEFA Europa League – Play-off Second Leg

Torino 1-0 RNK Split (1-0 on aggregate)

Over 20,000 people saw Omar El Kaddouri score what proved to be the tie-winning goal from the penalty spot after 22 minutes as Torino held on against their Croatian opponents. El Kaddouri had a chance to double the lead just after the break following a goalkeeping fumble from Darmian’s cross that allowed the ball to fall invitingly into the Moroccan’s path but the goalkeeper Vuković recovered to block the shot. Josef Martínez, who scored in the second leg of the last round, came on as a substitute after 64 minutes for the Brazilian Bareto, who had started as Fabio Quagliarella’s strike partner. Although Martínez did not score, he will at least have further opportunities to do so in the group phase as his side have been drawn in Group B alongside Copenhagen, Club Brugge and HJK Helsinki, teams Torino may feel superior to but who possess significantly more European experience. 

Thursday 28 August 2014

UEFA Europa League – Play-off Second Leg

CD Nacional 2-3 Dinamo Minsk (2-5 on aggregate)

Hopes were high that Nacional could overturn a two-goal deficit from the first leg when Marco Matias converted a 30th-minute penalty but these were immediately dashed as Udodji headed home for the Belarusians, leaving their Portuguese opponents needing three goals to qualify. This proved to be an insurmountable task though aficionados of the headed goal will be pleased to know that there are four of these beauties to be enjoyed here, culminating in Udodji’s winner after 63 minutes. Mario Rondón was a prominent threat for the home side, particularly in the first half, when he set up some opportunities and nearly scored soon after the Minsk equaliser as he closed down the dithering goalkeeper, blocking a clearance that went agonisingly across the goalmouth. With his side out, it will be interesting to see if there are any transfer developments regarding Rondón in the upcoming days as he has spoken of wanting to move to a bigger league though claimed a month ago that he would be content to stay and show the rest of the continent what he can do in the Europa League.

Thursday 28 August 2014

UEFA Europa League – Play-off Second Leg

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 AEL Limassol (5-1 on aggregate)

Jonathan España was an unused substitute and Jaime Moreno was not in the squad as the Cypriot side were comfortably defeated by North London’s second-best team. Early on in the first half, Limassol’s Moroccan goalkeeper Karim Fegrouch rushed towards the edge of the area and brought down Kyle Naughton, causing not only a penalty and a yellow card but also a severe injury and an unavoidable substitution. However, seven minutes after the foul, his Spanish replacement, Pulpo, pulled off a good save to deny Harry Kane, though the young Englishman did redeem himself by getting his side off the mark at the end of the half. Soon after the break, Paulinho made himself some space and struck home the second and the third came from the penalty spot, though not from Kane but rather his compatriot Andros Townsend.  

Venezuelans Abroad – 26 Aug 2014 Weekend Round-up (Europe)

Much as this column is attempting to be dedicated to shorter and more timely updates there is not a great deal that can be done to avoid lengthy articles when a near-full programme of fixtures is played in numerous time zones over a weekend. As always, following Hispanospherical on Twitter will give you fresher news on our disparate band of Venezuelans (and much more, including coverage of the Spanish leagues that kicked-off this weekend) but for those who prefer a more extensive article to read, please allow 10-15 minutes to wade through the weekend action from Europe (a second Rest of the World article for the Venezuelans playing elsewhere will soon appear on this page):

Europe

Spain

The Primera and Segunda Divisiones were inaugurated this weekend, with the very first match in the top-flight to be played coming at La Rosaleda with an incident-filled victory for Málaga at home to Athletic Bilbao. While youth-team graduate Juan Pablo Añor will have to wait a little longer to feature in a match-day squad, right-back Roberto Rosales made his competitive debut for Los Boquerones following his summer move from FC Twente. Málaga won a penalty in the 35th minute following an error from the usually dependable Gurpegi, who misjudged the flight of a ball he should have headed away, allowing Roque Santa Cruz to run onto it and then draw a foul from the onrushing goalkeeper, Gorka Iraizoz. Liverpool-loanee Luis Alberto stepped up, shooting slightly left-of-centre which drew a comfortable parry from Iraizoz but only straight back to Alberto who tapped it home to give his side the lead. Both teams continued to attack amidst a lively atmosphere but it was in the last several minutes that the game really commanded the spectators’ attention with a succession of incidents. Firstly, Málaga’s resident hot-head, the veteran Duda, came off the bench in the 70th minute only to be sent off 18 minutes later for ludicrously attempting to blast the ball at Bilbao’s Iker Muniain (who had just been fouled) and then pushing him over in full-sight of the referee. Two minutes later, Vitorino Antunes, left-back and Portuguese compatriot of Duda, cynically hacked down an opposition player who looked to be making a breakthrough in midfield, thus reducing the home side to nine men. Six minutes of stoppage time were played and Málaga as well as every Spanish football fan appears to still be unsure as to how they managed to survive without conceding as Bilbao’s goalkeeper Iraizoz sensationally headed home a magnificent bullet-header from a free-kick and yet, for reasons unknown, saw it chalked off by the referee. Soon after at the death, the Basque side were further incensed when Málaga’s Cameroonian goalkeeper Carlos Kameni – receiving the nod over Mexico’s World Cup hero Guillermo Ochoa – appeared to haul down Aritz Aduriz amidst a frantic goalmouth scramble. Nevertheless, Málaga held on for what was a rather impressive victory, though how they will cope with two suspended players and less fortuitous refereeing decisions remains to be seen. Although Roberto Rosales should gain some satisfaction over the clean sheet his team somehow kept, he was not tested a great deal down his right-hand side, though did sometimes stand off players, thus allowing them to put crosses in. From this game and the friendly matches he has played in, it does seem that while he possesses pace and certainly likes to get forward, he can be rather impulsive and to his side’s detriment when doing so, as his instinctive rapid passes regularly get intercepted and leave his team-mates on the back foot. We will see over the course of the season if this is merely due to a lack of collective cohesiveness in the side as well as a personal combination of hesitancy and eagerness to impress brought about by the professional step-up that he needs to get accustomed to.

Staying in Andalusia but moving over to Los Cármenes, Darwin Machís will have been delighted to have played the full 90 minutes for Granada in their 2-1 win over the returning Deportivo La Coruna. Overall, the Nazaríes put in an impressive performance that will give them hope that the end to their season will not be as tense as it was last year, but due to a goalkeeping error it was they who conceded first. Indeed, Depor’s new signing from Benfica, Ivan Carvaleiro, bustled his way into space on the right side within the area and his shot was embarrassingly fumbled over the line by Stole Dimitrievski. Fans of trivia for trivia’s sake will be posting on message boards left, right and centre upon learning that the last competitive game that these two 20 year-olds played in also saw them on opposite sides as Macedonia faced Portugal in an Under-21 European Championships Qualifier back in May. It is unknown whether Granada’s players were aware that Dimitrievski lost that match 1-0, but in the unlikely case that there are some fatalistic doom-mongers in their ranks, there were not any tinfoil hats on show upon their re-emergence for the second half as they instead composed themselves to reverse the scoreline. The fightback began on 54 minutes when former Blackburn player Rubén Rochina drove through the middle and, aided by the space granted to him by Youssef El-Arabi blocking off a defender, lashed a low worm-murdering firecracker into the bottom left-hand corner. The winner followed just over 20 minutes later when, in a move that replicated an earlier attempt with more success, Fran Rico curled a 45-yard free-kick on the left into the area and, in considerable space back-to-goal, Martinique international Jean-Sylvain Babin flicked a memorable header on his debut over Germán Lux. Machís was a sporadic attacking threat throughout this victory and though he did not manage any clear shots on goal, he should nevertheless feel confident of keeping his place next weekend away to Elche.

Moving on swiftly to the second-tier, relegated Real Valladolid began their promotion push with a 2-1 victory at home to Mallorca, thanks in no small part to two corners by Jeffrén Suárez. The first of these after 24 minutes was back-flicked into his own net by Mallorca’s Pau Cendrós in a manner that most fancy Dans (and Gianfrancos)  would have been proud of. The second was an inswinger after 52 minutes that was headed/shouldered by Roger Marti on to the post and rebounded for Óscar to knock home. Just over ten minutes later, unintentional trickster Cendrós scored at the right end after making a late run in the box to volley home a cross; in response, Suárez was withdrawn to be replaced by defender Johan Mojica in what appeared to be a tactical switch that ultimately just about paid off as Valladolid held on to victory. International goalkeeper Dani Hernández was between the sticks for the home side, though this could well prove to be his last league appearance for the club as earlier this week marked the long-awaited arrival of Sevilla’s Javi Varas.

Elsewhere, Josmar Zambrano came on to play the last 15 minutes of Recreativo Huelva’s eventful 0-0 draw at home to Real Zaragoza which, due to injury setbacks and loan spells, was actually his first appearance for the team despite joining over 18 months ago. Julio Álvarez is still out injured and so missed Numancia struggling to hold on to a lead with ten men and ultimately conceding two late goals in the last seven minutes to lose 2-1 at home to Sporting Gijón.

France

Nantes played at home to last year’s big-spenders Monaco who, before the game, were rooted at the bottom of the table, undergoing a period of transition following the arrival of the Venezuela-born manager Leonardo Jardim and the loss of James Rodríguez as well as attempting to deal with the ongoing instability caused by the daily speculation over the future of the latter’s compatriot, Radamel Falcao. However, the Principality boys recorded their first win at the Stade de la Beaujoire, thanks to a header late in the first half from the Colombian hitman that was actually his side’s first attempt on target in what was, for the majority of the game, a rather drab encounter lacking in clear chances. Oswaldo Vizcarrondo played all of the game and can not be faulted for the space granted to Falcao for his header but his fellow Venezuelan Fernando Aristeguieta was left out, with opening-day sensation Yacine Bammou instead starting up front. Bammou is certainly staking a strong claim to regularly keep Aristeguieta warming the bench and it was he who earned a penalty for Nantes halfway into the first half after drawing a foul from Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subašić. However, Serge Gakpé could not convert as Subašić redeemed himself with a low save to his right that resulted in a bit of goalmouth ping-ball as the ball was rapidly fizzed back-and-forth between the six-yard box and the left byline several times before going out of play. That was Nantes’ first attempt of the game but they did have a few more from open play towards the latter stages of the second half, Bammou again having one of the more notable opportunities with a snatched shot that swerved just wide of the post in the 80th minute. Immediately afterwards he was substituted off for Aristeguieta who, as has been the case so far this season, found himself in the midst of promising attacks without really being on the end of anything, with Kian Hansen providing the closest Nantes chance – a close-range volley from a corner that rattled off the crossbar. Thus it ended 1-0 to the away side, leaving Nantes with a record of one win, one draw and one defeat this season and next up for them will be a home game against Montpellier; Aristeguieta and Vizcarrondo may well learn a thing or two about their opposition from a certain compatriot of theirs.

Indeed, Juan Falcón played all of Metz’s 2-0 away defeat at Montpellier this weekend. The outcome could have been different, however, if his side had managed in the first half to convert their second penalty in as many games. In contrast to the game against Nantes, Kevin Lejeune rather than Yeni N’Gbakoto took the spot-kick – despite both men having been on the field at the same time in both games – and his shot cannoned off the post, coming straight back for him to chest and then strike on the volley but this was well-saved by the goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren. Subsequently, Montpellier’s two goals came from a Siaka Tiéné free-kick at the end of the first half and fellow African Souleymane Camara made sure of the three points by heading home at the end of the second half. Falcón did have one notable half-chance in the second half as a corner was whipped into the box and flicked on just in front of his path; the Venezuelan thrust his body towards the ball but could only make rather tame contact with the top of his thigh and his effort was cleared off the line by Morgan Sanson. Falcón will be hoping to open his account this upcoming weekend against Lyon to help Metz move up the league and out of the relegation zone.

Down a notch in Ligue 2, Grenddy Perozo has many reasons to be walking about town with a spring in his step. Not only was he recently called up to the national side, but his club Ajaccio built on last Monday’s derby victory to record their second win in four days, this time with an impressive 1-0 victory against Tours, thanks to a 73rd-minute goal by former France international Benoit Pedretti. As an indication of how poor Ajaccio were last season when they were relegated from Ligue 1, this result marked the first time since February 2013 that they have won two consecutive games and – perhaps more pleasingly for Perozo – the first time since last August that they have kept two consecutive clean sheets. The Corsican club now sits 5th, level on points with cross-commune rivals Gazélec Ajaccio, who have a marginally superior goal difference. Both sides are 3 points behind Troyes, the side Perozo – or at least some of his team-mates, given that promotion is the team’s primary focus – will be facing today (26 August) in the Coupe de la Ligue.

Portugal

While the young defender Victor García was not in Porto’s squad for their 1-0 away victory against Paços de Ferreira, both of the more established Venezuelans in the Primeira Liga who lost in midweek Europa League action continued their disappointing starts to the season, albeit for rather contrasting reasons. By rights, Yonathan Del Valle should feel elated that his side Rio Ave top the league after two matches but as he has been subbed off in both before any of their seven goals have been scored, he may not entirely share some of his team-mates’ feelings. In fairness, he will be the first to point out that he was most likely substituted at half-time in last week’s 2-0 victory over Vitória Setúbal for tactical reasons to compensate for his side’s man disadvantage and this weekend it was hardly his fault that he picked up an injury after 33 minutes in the 5-1 thrashing away to Estoril. Here, the goals began to fly in five minutes afterwards with the Egyptian Ahmed Hassan Koka going on to equal his tally for the whole of last season by getting a hat-trick; the other two came from Pedro Moreira.

Del Valle’s compatriot Mario Rondón has been getting significantly more game time for Nacional, playing all 90 minutes of their last three competitive games. That these matches have all ended in defeat is more likely to cause unrest than introspection as Rondón has spoken in public more than a few times about his desire to move on from Nacional and join one of Europe’s bigger leagues. His latest outing involved a spell captaining the side as they were defeated 3-1 away to Belenenses (who had Englishman Matthew Jones in goal). As observed in the last column, Rondón looked a little frustrated in last week’s Europa League tie and he did not look much happier in this game, particularly after being adjudged to be offside after 30 minutes, thus ruling out a potential equaliser for his side and then having to watch Belenenses go up the other end two minutes later to make it 2-0. Nacional did pull one back through a Marco Matias penalty but the Angolan Freddy scored a cracking curler that went in on the underside of the crossbar to ensure victory and a 100 per cent record for the home side.

Russia 

Zenit St. Petersburg also maintained their 100 per cent league record with a 2-0 victory against Amkar Perm, with Shatov and Hulk getting the goals early in the first half as the ban on home fans in the Petrovsky Stadium was lifted for the first time this season. Salomón Rondón kept his place in this side, starting over Kerzhakov who replaced him for a mere 11 minutes at the end and it seems more than likely that André Villas-Boas will stick with Rondón for Zenit’s crucial second leg of their Champions League play-off against Standard Liège. Zenit have a 1-0 lead from the away leg and so are favourites to go through but Rondón will be especially keen to get on the scoresheet as he came in for some criticism after the first match for being perceived to be somewhat off the pace, with his first touch consistently letting him down.

Italy

The Coppa Italia Third Round was contested over the weekend, the stage at which sides from Serie A who have not qualified for European football enter. Tomas Rincón made his debut for Genoa as they defeated Serie B’s Virtus Lanciano 1-0 away from home via a goal from new signing, the Chilean World Cup nearly-man Mauricio Pinilla, in a game played at a good tempo that was not short of chances.  Franco Signorelli‘s Empoli comfortably defeated third-tier L’Aquila 3-0 at home, with all three goals coming from veteran striker Francesco Tavano, though the Venezuelan himself was left on the bench. However, Signorelli, like Rincón, will surely feature in his side’s opening match of the league season this weekend and, more pertinently, the pair will actually meet each other in the Fourth Round of the Coppa Italia, though that will not be played until 2 December.

Switzerland

Cup action as well north of the Alps, with Thun defeating plucky third-tier Breitenrain 3-2 away from home as Venezuela’s Alexander González got off the mark for the season with two goals (no jokes about him ‘finding his level’, please…). With the score 0-0 at half-time, Breitenrain really did put up a strong test, taking the lead on two occasions, with both goals being cancelled out by González (his first a cracking volley from a long diagonal ball), who also had a hand in the winner, which was knocked in by Nelson Ferreira. Elsewhere, Pedro Ramírez continued his lacklustre start to his European career as he was subbed off after 45 minutes as his side were trailing 1-0 to fifth tier La Chaux-de-Fonds, a game Sion would eventually turnaround to win 3-1. Finally, Frank Feltscher is still injured so missed Aarau’s 7-1 away thrashing against Taverne.

Germany

Rolf Feltscher made his debut for Duisburg as an 81st-minute substitute away to early high-flyers Chemnitzer in a 0-0 draw, leaving his side 11th in the league with 6 points.

Cyprus

AEL Limassol’s rather multicultural team won 2-0 in their first league game away to NEA Salamis, but both Jonathan España and Jaime Moreno were left on the bench.

England

Finally, Fernando Amorebieta again was not part of the Fulham match-day squad as they lost their fourth league game on the trot. His departure, most likely to Granada, seems imminent.

Mercifully for us all, that concludes the round-up of the weekend’s European action involving Venezuelans but if you have any further questions about events discussed or any players that have been neglected, please leave a comment below and you can be sure to get a relatively swift response!

Part 2: Rest of the World should be posted on this site soon – keep checking back!

Venezuelans Abroad – 22 Aug 2014 Weekend and Midweek Round-up

Apologies for the delay with the delivery of this dispatch – life’s not always reassuringly straightforward, is it? With more and more leagues kicking off, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there are too many Venezuelans playing abroad for one person to adequately cover in a single article every few days. Consequently, some of you will be relieved to read that this may be the last caffeine-charged update of undergraduate essay length to be posted in this column. Instead from the next article onwards, though time-constraints may complicate matters from time to time, there should be a higher number of shorter articles that summarise the highlights no more than a day or two after they have occurred so that they still appear relatively fresh when published on this site. With the future emphasis being more on the leading players of La Vinotinto, there can be no promises that every last footballer who could legally qualify for the national side will receive the coverage here that their play merits, but if anyone feels certain players are being neglected please either contact the site by leaving a comment or follow the Twitter account (Hispanospherical), which will always feature additional and fresher news and highlights. Whether they receive a mention or not, you can be sure that their progress is being tracked.

Lastly, before the intercontinental Venezuelan rampage gets breathlessly underway, a large thank you is in order to all of you who have taken an interest in this site so far. As you all no doubt have multiple sources to aid seeking out information on these disparate players, it is hoped that by now you will be well-acquainted enough with their whereabouts (if you were not already) to know which overseas-based Venezuelans are currently in contention to earn call-ups and thus, given the availability of alternative sources, not be too disappointed should they be omitted from any future updates.

No doubt some readers will be grateful for the diminished and snappier lengths of future articles but before we get to that stage, feel free to allow one more dissertation to be inflicted upon you:

 Europe

Russia

Four wins out of four for Russian table-toppers Zenit St Petersburg who, again in a near-empty ground, defeated new-boys FC Ufa at the weekend by the slender margin of 1-0 with a penalty from Hulk after half an hour. André Villas-Boas’s men may have had a sly eye on their midweek Champions League qualifier away to Belgium’s Standard Liège, as leading target man Salomón Rondón was largely rested though did make a brief appearance with five minutes remaining to unintentionally tarnish his impressive goals-to-games scoring ratio.

On Wednesday, Rondón received the nod over Kerzhakov for the first leg in Liège, though despite Zenit’s dominance for at least two-thirds of the game giving them a crucial 1-0 victory, he may have boarded the plane back to Saint Petersburg feeling frustrated. In Zenit attacks, he was often peripheral with service to him not as forthcoming as he would have hoped, though when he did receive the ball in the final third his first touch sometimes let him down. On the one rare occasion that he was provided with a clear opportunity he could have put the tie out of sight when, at the end of the first half, he ran onto Danny’s through-ball but poked the ball against the crossbar. That particular outcome may have been a little unfortunate but it will be curious to see whether he starts this weekend’s game against Amkar Perm; if AVB instead goes with the ageing Kerzhakov and the side’s all-time top-scorer reels back the years with a magisterial performance, then a starting place in the forward line for next week’s second leg will surely be up for grabs.

France

France’s Ligue 1 hosted the weekend’s most anticipated game of Venezuelan interest as Fernando Aristeguieta and Oswaldo Vizcarrondo lined up for Nantes at home to Juan Falcón‘s Metz in a 1-1 draw.  Falcón has come in for some criticism for his roles in both goals, with some feeling that he should have been tracking Jordan Veretout who fired in a loose ball for the early Nantes opener and that he tripped himself up – unintentionally or not – to win Metz a penalty on 12 minutes that Yeni  N’Gbakoto converted. Irrespective of the merits of these claims, Falcón was certainly a more threatening figure than he was allowed to be in his side’s 0-0 draw away with Lille, providing optimism to Metz fans still coming to terms with the departure of Diafra Sakho to West Ham earlier in the week. On the home side, Fernando Aristeguieta was substituted off again two-thirds into the game for last week’s provider of football’s latest Roy of the Rovers fairytale, Yacine Bammou. However, the former Paris St. Germain club shop employee was unable to provide another match-winner and so Aristeguieta can rest assured for the time-being at least that he is the man fans will be counting on to fill the boots of Filip Đorđević. As he experienced an injury in pre-season that ruled him out for at least a couple of weeks, it is possible that he is not fully fit at the moment.

Moving briefly down to Ligue 2 for the derby match in Corsica, Grenddy Perozo‘s Ajaccio comfortably defeated Gazélec Ajaccio 2-0 away from home, keeping a rare clean sheet against the commune’s poor-relations who were playing with ten men for over an hour.  This was Ajaccio’s first win of the season though will be facing sterner opposition in the league at the weekend against second-placed Tours and next midweek in the Coupe de la Ligue away to current league-leaders Troyes.

Portugal

The Portuguese Primeira Liga was inaugurated over the weekend, with two Venezuelans in action. 1770 people on the island of Madeira turned out to watch last season’s fifth-placed side CD Nacional, featuring Mario Rondón, lose 1-0 at home to last season’s Segunda Liga winners Moreirense. Rondón played the entirety of the game but though he was involved in some attacking opportunities that were soundtracked to some Thunderbirds-esque drumming by the home fans, his side were undone by an 80th minute header by Paraguayan substitute Ramón Cardozo. Over on the north coast of the mainland, Rio Ave went some way to moving on from the disappointment of losing the previous week’s Portuguese Super Cup match on penalties to Benfica by defeating Vitória Setúbal 2-0. However, whereas last week forward Yonathan Del Valle was ordered to run his socks off for over 120 minutes and chase every frantically hoofed clearance, here he was sacrificed for midfielder Pedro Moreira at half-time as Rio Ave were reduced to ten men following Filipe’s dismissal. Despite the man disadvantage, the home side showed character and opened the scoring after 53 minutes through Diego Lopes; they were further boosted when Zequinha was sent off for the opposition on 71 minutes, who actually finished the match with nine men as Manu received two bookings in the last ten minutes – in between these two events, the Brazilian Marcelo headed home the second for Rio Ave.

Del Valle and Rondón both started their sides’ Europa League games on Thursday as they sought to gain a first-leg advantage to earn group stage spots, but the Venezuelan pair again experienced more personal disappointment. Del Valle was again withdrawn by Rio Ave at half-time in Sweden against Elfsborg, this time along with fellow-starter Pedro Moreira, as the Portuguese side were trailing 2-0; the changes arguably made some difference as the deficit was eventually halved to 2-1 with Marcelo again scoring and there were opportunities to get on level terms. As for Rondón, he again played the full 90 minutes for Nacional but they were undone in the Belarusian capital by a goal in each half in a 2-0 defeat by Dinamo Minsk. Rondón had a European experience not entirely dissimilar to his Zenit namesake in that he received the ball several times in and around the box but rarely in potentially punishing positions, instead often ending moves by blasting half-hearted shots at crowds of defenders who could then clear. It will probably be Del Valle, not Rondón, who will feel more confident going into next week’s second legs, though whether he will be permitted to play more than one half remains to be seen.

Before moving on from Portugal, one final piece of brief news: 20 year-old defender Víctor García, fresh from earning the number 50 shirt for the season, did not feature in Porto’s 2-0 opening day win over Marítimo nor their impressive midweek Champions League victory away to Lille. Still, plenty of time yet.

Switzerland

Over in the erstwhile land of passive neutrality (who said this column is out-of-date and living in the past?), Alexander González enjoyed another full 90 minutes as FC Thun came from a goal down against St. Gallen to record an impressive 3-1 win to go third in the league. As this win came against the only side to take any points – never mind beat 2-0 away – the league-leaders Basel this season, Thun can feel especially pleased with themselves. Speaking of whom, further south the league’s sole Champions League representatives won 3-2 away to Pedro Ramírez‘s Sion in a very entertaining match that was only taken out of the home side’s grasp in the last ten minutes. However, the former Zamora starlet continued his run of negligible contributions as he was only substituted on for the last few minutes of the match and so unsurprisingly was unable to demonstrate to the fans why he was purchased in the summer.

Regarding the Feltscher brothers, Frank is still injured but interesting news regarding his younger sibling Rolf who, following his summer release from Lausanne-Sport, has finally found a club to allow him to get his career back on track. Despite repeated rumours of a move to Deportivo Táchira, he has instead made the move north to the German third division to sign for MSV Duisburg. While this move has been met with some bemusement by Venezuelan commentators, it could well prove to be a rewarding move in the long run. Duisburg are down in the third-tier not due to relegation but rather problems relating to their license documents (please, no questions about this in this comments). They are a team with the resources to gain at least one promotion, having been in the Bundesliga just six years ago playing in a stadium that holds over 30,000 people (still often half full) and as an indication of their potential, just this weekend they enjoyed dumping Nürnberg out of the DFB Pokal Cup.

England

Fernando Amorebieta has continued to be frozen out of Fulham’s match-day squads, not featuring in any of their opening three defeats in the Championship as manager Felix Magath appears to be alienating fans and players alike with his team selection and general approach. However with Amorebieta, it is possible that his allegedly high wages and feelings towards playing for a second-tier team mean that his days at the club have always been numbered since relegation so his exclusion is understandable if Magath is expecting him to leave. As reported in previous columns, various sides have been linked with a move for him though in the past week there has been some new rumours. Firstly and perhaps lacking in substance is the story regarding Dynamo Kyiv’s interest, but more credible is the interest of Granada, whose sporting director has made some enquiries but admits his wages may be a stumbling block.

Italy

Torino were another team of Venezuelan interest to be vying for a place in the Europa League group stage as Josef Martínez‘s side played out a 0-0 draw away to RNK Split in Croatia. Torino will undoubtedly be favourites in next week’s leg and given the stalemate may well offer an opportunity to Martínez, who remained on the bench through the first leg.

Looking ahead, while the Serie A does not get underway until 30 August, this upcoming weekend sees the introduction of some of the top-flight teams to the Third Round of the Coppa Italia. Tomás ‘Gattuso 2.0’ Rincón‘s Genoa will be making the journey south to Serie B’s Virtus Lanciano and Franco Signorelli‘s Empoli shall host third-tier L’Aquila, who beat Bologna, recently relegated from Serie A, in the last round.

Spain

Excitingly, the Spanish leagues will be commencing this weekend and so, given the scope and name of this website, readers can look forward to some more detailed coverage from the Primera and Segunda Divisións. Málaga will kick-off the top-flight with their difficult home match against the Basque side Athletic Bilbao; Roberto Rosales is an almost definite starter at right-back for Los Boquerones despite the recent acquisition of Miguel Torres and the youngster Juan Pablo Añor will be pushing for a place in the match-day squad after being given regular chances in pre-season and handed the number 28 shirt for the season. Another player with similar circumstances – albeit with more first-team experience – and who scored some goals in pre-season is Darwin Machís; his side Granada will be looking to get off to a winning start at home against the newly promoted former league champions Deportivo La Coruña.

In the Segunda División, Real Valladolid will begin their attempt to bounce straight back to the top-flight with a home match against Mallorca. Former Barcelona man Jeffrén  Suárez, now 26 and who has been in talks with representing Venezuela for the first time, has got an opportunity to play consistently for the first time over the course of an entire season and in a league that could well prove to be beneath him. His team-mate and international goalkeeper, Dani Hernández, who seemed to be certain to exit the club in the summer, is likely to start at the weekend as he has done  so all throughout pre-season as the club have failed so far in their attempts to buy a replacement. Elsewhere, Josmar Zambrano will be in contention for Recreativo Huelva as they start their bid to improve upon narrowly missing out on a play-off place last year with a home game against Real Zaragoza. Finally, if he makes an unlikely recovery by the weekend, then the creative playmaker Julio Álvarez could feature for Numancia at home to Sporting Gijón, though don’t bank on it as he has not featured at all in pre-season.

Cyprus

AEL Limassol nearly caused an upset against Tottenham Hotspur in the home leg of their Europa League tie, taking a first-half lead only to be undone by goals from Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane in the last quarter of the game. Jonathan España sat on the bench throughout this game though as ever, the whereabouts of his compatriot Jaime Moreno is unknown.

Turkey

Though thankfully pre-season is coming to an end and coverage here has recently been kept to a minimum, it would be churlish not to mention Ronald Vargas‘s free-kick winner for Balıkesirspor at home to AEL Kallonis last weekend. He did also score in a 3-1 friendly win on Thursday against Somaspor and if footage of that becomes available, you can be sure it will be posted both here and on the Twitter page. Vargas is a man who showed a lot of promise in his early days in Europe with Club Brugge but has had countless injury setbacks that have hampered his progress. 28 in December, he will be hoping to get his career back on track as he enters what should be his prime and will begin his season on 29 August with a home game against Akhisar Belediyespor.

Asia

Thailand

Last time we were with Andrés Túñez, his impressive start to his career at Buriram United was painfully interrupted by a last-minute goal against title-challengers Chonburi, thus narrowing the race. However, instead of wilting it appears that Buriram, and Túñez in particular, have reacted impeccably to the threat. Firstly, at the weekend they kept a clean sheet and comfortably defeated relegation-threatened Air Force United 2-0 and then in midweek earned a vital victory away to opposition who, before the match at least, were very much in with a chance of winning the league. Had Muangthong United won, they would have been one point behind Buriram (who would have been level with Chonburi) but thanks to a first-half goal from Túñez himself, seven points now separate the two sides (with Chonburi three behind).  After a Muangthong corner was cleared and then picked up by a Buriram player, Túñez (now unmasked) could see that the home side had over-committed and charged forward from his own area to receive a pass and then slot it home for a moment of glorious euphoria. However, Buriram certainly did not have it all their own way, as Muangthong had a penalty saved at the end of the first half and then, following Theeraton Bunmathan’s dismissal, the away side had to repel attack after attack with ten men for over 30 minutes. If you have an opportunity to view the highlights please do as the game was a great advertisement for the league. With seven league games left and having already faced the two closest title challengers, Buriram United are definitely favourites to win the Thai Premier League.

Qatar

Later on today, Friday 22 August, Miku should be beginning his season with Al Gharafa at home to Umm Salal, a team who also finished in a mid-table position last year, albeit two points above Miku’s side. The Venezuelan hitman has been somewhat neglected so far in this column due to the lack of news from his part of the world but no doubt once the season is up and running, there will be regular reports on his goals.

North America

Mexico 

Last week’s Friday night league game of Juan Arango‘s Xolos de Tijuana was mentioned in the last update and he did not feature in his side’s midweek 0-0 away draw with Deportivo Tepic in the Copa MX, which leaves them 2nd in their group behind Guadalajara. In the league below, Giancarlo Maldonado has been scoring again, this time the second goal – a header from a cross – for Atlante in their big 4-2 away win against Mérida, which leaves them second in the table. Maldonado, along with seven of his team-mates, was not selected for the midweek cup defeat against top-tier Toluca; such changes show where Atlante’s priorities lie and, along with the strength of their group, accounts for them currently being last with just one point from three games.

United States of America

Bernardo Añor is still out with a hamstring injury and thus sadly missed Columbus Crew’s 4-1 thrashing of LA Galaxy, a side which featured both Robbie Keane and Landon Donavan. The Crew are back in the play-off positions in the Eastern Conference.

South America 

Colombia

Alejandro Guerra did not feature in Atlético Nacional’s 1-1 away draw against Deportes Tolima in the league over the weekend, but he did make the journey back home to Venezuela to play in another 1-1 away draw, this time in the Copa Sudamericana First Round against Deportivo La Guaira. Guerra played just under an hour of this first leg, with the goals coming after his departure, first for La Guaira with a bullet-header from Framber Villegas after 66 minutes and then for Nacional from an Edwin Cardona penalty with 7 minutes remaining. Remarkably, Atlético Nacional fielded a completely different squad on the same night to fulfil domestic cup obligations against Jaguares de Córdoba and achieved a 1-1 draw thanks to a stoppage-time goal from former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Ángel. Moving on to Santa Fe, Luis Manuel Seijas‘s side lost ground in the league last weekend as they were defeated 2-0 by Deportivo Cali. Seijas played the entire game and his team now find themselves 9th in the league, albeit with a game in hand which, were they to play tomorrow and win, would put them level on points with 2nd. Santa Fe, minus Seijas and most other first-team regulars, played midweek in the cup achieving a late turnaround with two goals in the last ten minutes to beat Expreso Rojo 2-1 away. Santa Fe have already won their group with an impressive record of 8 wins in 9 games and will play their remaining game against Bogotá next week.

Chile

This weekend just gone, Emilio Rentería‘s San Marcos had to wait until the 90th minute to make the decisive breakthrough against Antofagasta, with the goal coming from a Renato González free-kick, for which Rentería was also standing over providing a decoy. This win leaves San Marcos 9th and Antofagasta last, but in the reverse midweek cup fixture, San Marcos made wholesale changes, leaving no place for Rentería and ended up on the wrong side of a 4-0 hammering. Both teams now have the most points (10) in their group, but perhaps unsurprisingly, Antofagasta now have the edge on goal difference. Despite making a rare return to first-team football last midweek in the cup, Javier González was again sidelined to the bench once the more prestigious matters of league football returned, as Ñublense were defeated 3-2 by Unión La Calera, leaving them 11th with 7 points. 

Mercifully for us all, that concludes the round-up of the last several days of action but if you have any further questions about events discussed or any players that have been neglected, please leave a comment below and you can be sure to get a relatively swift response!

 

Venezuelans Abroad – 12 Aug 2014 Weekend Round-up

Another long weekend over and more competitive football is now underway, particularly in Europe. If you follow this site’s Twitter page (Hispanospherical) then you will already be aware of what our many disparate Venezuelans have been up to, but if not then here follows a substantial summary of the highlights:

Europe

Who better to start with than Salomón Rondón? He is Venezuela’s most lethal finisher, will no doubt become their all-time top scorer within the next five years and, more to the point, has been spanking in the goals again for the rampant Zenit St. Petersburg. Indeed, Zenit, having been one of four sides to win by a four-goal margin on the opening day, now enjoy some daylight over their nearest rivals at the top of the Russian Premier League following an 8-1 home steamrolling over Torpedo Moscow that was played in front of empty stands due to certain incidents that occurred late last season. In a game reminiscent of a pre-season pasting delivered to a group of fourth division amateurs in a secluded Swiss retreat, Rondón started once again and got on the scoresheet twice, as did the rampaging colossus that is Hulk as well as the Brazilian’s replacement, Alexandr Kerzhakov – Smolnikov and Shatov were responsible for the other two. Rondón scored Zenit’s second –  an acrobatic bicycle-kick that matched in quality Hulk’s preceding stepover and dinked ball from the right – as well as their fourth, a rebound that fell into his path after Shatov’s shot was parried and which was stabbed into an unguarded net. At this point, Torpedo’s defence already looked like they were reconsidering their career choices and Rondón soon helped inflict further misery with his quick return-ball to Hulk who burst into the box and rounded the keeper for the fifth. Hulk was very much the catalyst in this performance and if there were any relieved sighs in the Torpedo ranks when he was taken off just before the hour, his replacement Alexandr Kerzhakov ensured that there would be no reprieve. 

Moving on from a goalfeast to a stalemate, the first weekend of France’s Ligue 1 got underway, with Juan Falcón making his debut for Metz in a creditable goalless draw away to last season’s third-placed side, Lille. Falcón has been handed the coveted No. 9 shirt and played for 78 minutes but failed to get a clear shot on Vincent Enyeama’s goal as he was often reduced to chasing long balls and attempting to hold the ball up as Metz were largely set up to frustrate the likes of Ryan Mendes and Divock Origi. It was the Liverpool-loanee Origi who nearly put Lille 1-up in the first half with a header that was well-saved with an outstretched glove of Johann Carrasso, who certainly kept Metz within the game on more than one occasion. Next weekend, Falcón will be hoping to have more freedom to show what he can do as Metz host Nantes, a game which national team boss Noel Sanvicente will surely be watching as it will feature two more Venezuelans who also started over the weekend. Oswaldo Vizcarrondo and Fernando Aristeguieta featured in the 1-0 victory for Nantes at home to Lens in a closely fought match, the outcome of which may have brought more satisfaction to the centre-back Vizcarrondo. Indeed, whereas he can be pleased with his role in his team’s clean-sheet, Aristeguieta may have mixed emotions about his team’s match-winner being scored from a close-range volley less than a minute after he was substituted in the 63rd minute by his replacement, Yacine Bammou. This hitherto unknown forward was actually making his debut, not only for Les Canaris but also as a Ligue 1 player, having not long previously been combining lower-league football with a job in Paris St. Germain’s club shop. Bammou’s rise is quite a story in itself and while it may prove to be too much too soon, he can be forgiven for having an eye on regularly replacing Aristeguieta as Nante’s lead man after Filip Đorđević’s summer departure to Lazio. The one remaining Venezuelan who played in France this weekend was Grenddy Perozo who made his first appearance of the season for Ajaccio in their second game in Ligue 2 as they were defeated 2-0 at home by another relegated side, Sochaux. A quick glance at the highlights will not allay any fears regarding their defence, which was the most porous in Ligue 1 last season, conceding at a rate of nearly two per game.  

Over in Switzerland, two of our men featured for their clubs. Firstly, starting in an advanced position behind the forward, Pedro Ramírez played 54 minutes of Sion’s 1-0 home victory against Vaduz, though in events not entirely dissimilar to those befalling Aristeguieta, his substitution also came a minute before his team scored. However, as the match-winner Vilmos Vanczák was a fellow starter, Ramírez will probably not feel that there is an instant threat to his position and may just be grateful to have started for only the second time this season for what is now the third-placed team in the league. The other Venezuelan who made it onto the pitch in the Super League was Alexander González of Thun who again played in an advanced position on the left of midfield as his side took an early lead and held on to a 1-1 draw with Young Boys for a respectable point that leaves them fourth in the league, one point behind Sion. Touching briefly upon the matter of the two Feltscher brothers, whilst Frank is still injured and has thus not been able to serve fifth-placed Aarau, unattached younger brother Rolf is being strongly linked to a move to Deportivo Táchira in Venezuela, though is believed to be hesitant about taking a perceived backwards career move. 

The last competitive match in Europe this weekend featuring one of La Vinotinto‘s finest occurred in Portugal as Yonathan Del Valle‘s Rio Ave put up a valiant fight to frustrate Champions and Cup-winners Benfica in the Portuguese Super Cup, known as the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira. Rio Ave qualified for this match by virtue of being runners-up to their opponents in May’s Taça de Portugal, a game in which Del Valle did not play. However, while on sunday his side were often on the backfoot attempting to repel attacks, there was more than one occasion when they could have caused an upset. Perhaps most significantly for this column was an unexpected chance at the end of the first-half when a ball was played back to Artur in the Benfica goal and he dithered; with the ball not under his full control, Del Valle sensed an opportunity and slid in, nearly making enough contact to embarrass the goalkeeper, who ultimately recovered. The double-winners came even closer to gifting the opposition the match after 117 minutes of a goalless – though eventful – game in which Benfica’s chances at goal outnumbered Rio Ave’s by a ratio of over 5:1, when Jardel nervously attempted to hook a ball in the box clear and ended up striking his own crossbar. Nevertheless, the game went to the limit without a goal. Thus, penalties were required and despite Rio Ave taking an early lead, Benfica did manage to recover and won the Super Cup by the narrowest of margins, 3-2 on spot-kicks.

Moving on to two Venezuelans who were not involved in their teams’ competitive games, starting in England’s second-tier with centre-back Fernando Amorebieta. The future of the former Bilbao man has been subject to speculation throughout the summer and as there has been no official word regarding an injury, his exclusion from the match-day squad for Fulham’s opening-day Championship loss to Ipswich has only reignited some old rumours, with an alleged move to Málaga being the most popular. Secondly, defender Victor García was not part of the match-day squad for Porto II’s opening day defeat at home to UD Oliveirense in the Portuguese Segunda Liga. Having featured regularly last season and in pre-season, it is likely that he was not match-fit and possibly carrying a knock.

Bringing this section to a close with some mercifully brief news on players who are still in their pre-season, this column can report that eleven players that are regularly tracked featured in friendlies these past few days. If you wish to know more about the matches involving Roberto RosalesJuan Pablo AñorJosmar ZambranoTomás Rincón, Franco SignorelliRonald Vargas Jonathan EspañaJaime MorenoJeffrén SuárezDani Hernández and/or  Darwin Machís, feel free to leave a comment and you will receive a response as soon as possible. For now, the most significant news regarding those players relates to the last two as both Hernández and Machís appear to have bolstered their positions at their respective clubs. Regarding Hernández, despite seemingly being on his way out of Real Valladolid at the beginning of the summer, Venezuela’s first-choice goalkeeper has been a consistent starter in pre-season games. While this may in part be due to his team’s lack of success in bringing in a new shot-stopper – Javi Varas of Sevilla is an ongoing target – Hernández may well find he has a future at the club even if they do. As for the young Granada forward Machís, regular readers of this column will know that at the very end of July his agent Sebastian Cano had said that he felt the following fortnight would be crucial regarding his client’s prospects of gaining a place in the first-team squad for the upcoming season. A fortnight on, he has still featured regularly in pre-season matches – the last two games coming against strong German opposition – and Granada’s Sporting Director Juan Carlos Cordero has stated that Machís will indeed be retained within the squad

Asia

Andres Túñez maintained his immaculate iconic status in Thailand and his side’s unbeaten streak as Buriram United took an early lead and ran out 2-0 winners at home to Singhtarua to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points. 

South America

In Colombia, Luis Manuel Seijas played the full 90 minutes of Santa Fe’s 2-1 victory over Independiente Medellín, which leaves them on seven points with four other teams. On five points having played a game more than Santa Fe is Alejandro Guerra‘s Atlético Nacional who gleefully romped to a 5-0 Clásico thrashing against Millonarios, scoring a cracker or two along the way. Sadly, for reasons that are not entirely clear, Guerra was not part of the squad for this pounding. 

Moving south to Chile Javier González, who has not featured since his side’s opening day 3-0 defeat, was again absent as Ñublense recorded a 2-1 home victory against Universidad Católica to increase their points tally to seven – only three other teams have more points at this early stage. Elsewhere, Emilio Rentería was unable to continue his impressive goalscoring start to this season as he played the entirety of San Marcos 1-0 defeat away to a previously pointless Barnechea, which leaves his side with a mere four points. 

North America

As the two Mexican league games of relevance were played on Friday, they were featured in the last update but feel free to revisit them if you wish to see a pearl of a free-kick by Atlante’s Giancarlo Maldonado. Furthermore, in the aftermath of Xolos de Tijuana’s draw with Morelia – leaving them with a paltry two points from four games – there have been some calls on social networks to remove Juan Arango‘s manager, former Venezuela boss César Farías, from his position. Also, regarding Arango, there has been further confirmation that he will not join the national team for their matches in Asia but national coach Sanvicente has said that the door is still open for him to return.

Lastly, up north in the USA, Bernardo Añor was again absent for Columbus Crew’s entertaining 3-2 home reversal against a Defoe-less Toronto FC, with the match-winner scored by another Englishman, Luke Moore. That narrow defeat leaves the Crew just one place off the play-off positions in the Eastern Conference. 

That concludes the round-up of the last few days of action but if you have any further questions about events discussed or any players that have been neglected, please leave a comment below and you can be sure to get a relatively swift response!