Nery Castillo netted twice for Aris in its league win to take his January goal total to four, while Jonathan dos Santos saw time off the bench for the Barcelona senior team.
Back in the squad for the first time since being shown a second yellow card for a trip where replays showed no contact in a cup match against Atromitos, Castillo was lethal from close range as he bagged a pair of goals in Aris’ 3-1 win at bottom side Doxa Dramas. His first goal, an opportunistic tap-in at the far post, put gave his side a 2-1 lead in the 30th minute, and he sealed the win on the break in the 86th minute, collecting the ball on the left, driving into the box and finish at the near post.
With the brace, Castillo now has four goals in January, making him easily the most successful Mexican playing abroad this month. What makes the feat especially noteworthy, though, is that his four-goal haul matches his total for all his clubs in the last four-and-a-half years. Yes, you read that right. Since his 20 million euro move from Olympiacos to Shakhtar Donetsk in July 2007, following sterling Gold Cup and Copa America performance, Castillo had scored precisely four goals for his various club sides. One in each of his two spells at Shakhtar and two in the first half of 2011 with Aris. (He also scored once for Mexico, the team’s lone goal in a 3-1 defeat at Honduras in April 2009.)
Castillo may never live up to the hype accorded to him in the summer of 2007, nor may he shed off the ‘bust’ tag that accompanied him from the Ukraine, where he was at the time the most expensive signing by a Ukranian club, to MLS, where he failed to live up to his Designated Player status with the Chicago Fire. However, he will be hard to overlook any more should he keep playing the way he has with Aris.
All quiet in England
There was nothing doing for Mexican players in England over the weekend. Javier Hernandez made the bench for Manchester United’s 2-1 win at Arsenal, but did not see the field. It was a similar case for young Antonio Pedroza, who watched from the Crystal Palace bench as his team lost 2-1 at Blackpool. Giovani dos Santos continues to be on the outside looking in at Tottenham and will hope to find a new club before the transfer window closes.
Better fortunes for the younger dos Santos
While his older brother has struggled to find playing time with the senior team, Jonathan dos Santos continues to slowly work his way up ladder at Barcelona. He dressed for both the world champion’s 2-1 win at Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and a 4-1 away win against Malaga. While he did not feature against Barcelona’s archrival, he entered the game against Malaga as a 67th minute substitute and was on the pitch for Barcelona’s final goal and Malaga’s late consolation. Dos Santos’ run with the first team means he has not featured for Barcelona B since Jan. 7.
Hector Moreno also had a good week with Espanyol. Though his side fell behind 2-0 at home against third-tier Mirandes in the Copa del Rey, it engineered a late comeback, scoring three times in the final five minutes to take a big step towards the semifinals. He played the full 90 minutes in that game, as well as a 3-0 win over Granada on the weekend that saw the side move up to fifth place in La Liga.
Carlos Vela also played a full game, starting and going the distance for Real Sociedad, though his team’s fortunes were decidedly worse, as the Basque outfit fell 4-0 at home against visiting Atletico Madrid.
Pablo Barrera was named to the bench but did not play in last-placed Zaragoza’s 0-0 draw with Getafe, while Efrain Juarez is out of the squad and looking for a new team.
In the lower divisions, Andres Guardado started and played the full game in Deportivo’s 1-0 win over Villarreal B that kept it on top of the second division. He served up a cross from the left side that helped force the 74th minute own goal that gave Deportivo the win. Anibal Zurdo also started and played the full game for Guadalajara, but the team lost 3-0 to Valladolid. Taufic Guarch did not play in Espanyol B’s 1-0 loss to Cornella in the fourth division.
Guillermo Ochoa started and played the full match, but could not do enough to prevent an upset in the last 32 of the Coupe de France. Traveling to in-form fourth-division side Bourg-Peronnas, Ajaccio needed a late equalizer to level at 2-2 and force extra time, but a 105th minute goal by Julio Tavares ended Ajaccio’s dream of a cup run, handing the Corsican side a 3-2 loss.
Back in action up north
Leagues in Germany and the Netherlands restarted after the winter break, but Francisco Rodriguez and Stuttgart didn’t have much luck. Rodriguez played the whole game, but Stuttgart fell 3-1 at Schalke. In the Netherlands, Ulises Davila was not called for Vitesse’s 1-0 home loss to NEC Nijmegen.
Elsewhere, Edson Rivera was called into the squad, but did not leave the bench in Braga’s 2-1 win over Rio Ave in the Portuguese league, while Jose Delgadillo remains on winter break with HNK Rijeka, with the Croatian league set to restart in mid-February.