League seasons across Europe came to an end over the weekend and while Jorge Sampaoli was keeping a close eye on his possible Argentina squad, there was mixed news.
Gabriel Mercado was forced off injured in Sevilla’s derby draw with Real Betis and adds to the Argentina manager’s concern ahead of the World Cup. Mercado looks likely to be the first choice right-back in Russia and so La Albiceleste will hope that the initial reports of it not being serious are correct.
Lucas Biglia just back from injury was again forced off for Milan after being caught in the back by compatriot Alejandro Gómez’s knee. The midfielder looks set to form a key part of Sampaoli’s midfield and after making a speedy recovery from the small fracture suffered some weeks ago, Argentina trust that there has not been a recurrence.
However, it wasn’t all bad news as Manuel Lanzini finished the season with a brace in West Ham United’s 3-1 win over Everton. Two wonderful finishes showed just what a talent the 25-year-old is when fit and in form and the midfielder will likely play a key role for Argentina at the World Cup. Lanzini’s performance in the friendly against Italy provided some evidence but Sampaoli has mentioned his potential importance in linking with Lionel Messi.
And Lanzini wasn’t the only former River Plate academy product to enjoy a Premier League double. Erik Lamela pushing for a late recall to the Argentina squad (which sadly didn’t come on Monday) struck twice as Tottenham Hotspur bid farewell to Wembley with a 5-4 win over Leicester City.
Lamela tapped in from close range to reduce Leicester’s 3-1 lead and again to equalise as Spurs came from behind to finish the season victorious. Injury has kept Lamela out for large parts of the season but a strong finish could have seen him offer something a little different to Jorge Sampaoli. On this occasion, Lamela misses out but at 26, there is still time.
Away from the Premier League there was further joy for River graduates as Lucas Alario notched a brace in Bayer Leverkusen’s 3-2 win against Hannover.
A superb volley gave Leverkusen an early lead and after Wendell missed from the penalty spot, Alario skipped around Michael Esser for his second and to double the lead. Leverkusen would extend their lead after the break and so Hannover’s two late goals made no difference and Alario’s side finished fifth.
In LaLiga, Pablo Piatti added the fourth from the penalty spot as Espanyol defeated already relegated Malaga 4-1 while Luciano Vietto scored one of the goals of the weekend.
Still struggling for consistency at this level, Vietto showed just what he is capable of, running from his own half before finding the top corner, to score the only goal of the game in Valencia’s victory over Girona.
Zenit St. Petersburg’s ultimately disappointing season came to an end with a 6-0 win over SKA Khabarovsk and while Sebastian Driussi has had a difficult first season in European football, the young striker produced a goal of the highest quality.
Only six minutes were on the clock when Driussi chested down Domenico Criscito and smashed a volley into the net. Emiliano Rigoni and Leandro Paredes were both also playing and with the news that manager Roberto Mancini will be leaving to take the Italy job, it will be interesting to see how Zenit’s Argentinian contingent do next season.
— ФК «Зенит» (@zenit_spb) May 13, 2018
Ezequiel Lavezzi scored his seventh of the season as Hebei China Fortune drew 2-2 away to Guangzhou Evergrande. Hebei had only just fallen behind when veteran Lavezzi burst past the last defender and fired in the equaliser for his seventh in ten games.
And finally in Major League Soccer (MLS), Ezequiel Barco gave Atlanta United a further glimpse of just what they can look forward to with a fine goal in the win over Orlando City. After opening his account last week, the former Independiente playmaker fired a wonderful second with the outside of his boot to help Tata Martino’s side to victory.
Barco. Banger. 💥
He’s going for back-to-back Goals of the Week pic.twitter.com/5Pp0nH3yAr
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) May 13, 2018
Sebastián Blanco gave Portland Timbers a late win over rivals Seattle Sounders with a neat, chipped finish in the 86th minute. In the 100th meeting between the two clubs, Blanco sealed the points and to celebrate Chucky donned a mask of his namesake from the Child’s play horror franchise.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) May 13, 2018
Elsewhere in MLS, Federico Higuaín scored from the penalty spot in Colombus Crew’s comfortable win over Chicago Fire and Argentinian duo Mauro Diaz and Maxi Urruti proved too much for LA Galaxy as FC Dallas won 3-2.
Urruti’s accurate finish from outside the penalty area opened the scoring but it was Diaz’s hat-trick of assists that did the damage and ensured Galaxy’s comeback proved fruitless.
Highlights from a hectic one in Dallas. pic.twitter.com/9lhd82pe4j
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) May 13, 2018