It was a very productive week for Mexican players abroad, as Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela and Nery Castillo all scored, while Jonathan dos Santos played well for Barcelona.
If not for Nery Castillo, January would have been a completely forgettable month for Mexicans playing abroad. However, if the opening week of February is any indication, the players' fortunes could be changing dramatically. Javier Hernandez led the way, scoring two goals, while it proved to be a productive week for Mexicans in Spain and Castillo kept up his impressive goalscoring run.
Chicharito the lone light in Britain
After questions about his health and his place in the Manchester United squad plagued Hernandez for much of December and January, he finally responded over the past week with a goal in each of the two games he featured in. On Tuesday against Stoke City, he was handed his first start since Dec. 31 and took his chance well, converting a first-half penalty kick that would stand as the winning goal in a 2-0 victory.
Though he found himself on the substitute's bench once again for United's showdown with Chelsea over the weekend, Chicharito's penchant for late-game heroics proved decisive. After Wayne Rooney had hit two from the penalty spot to bring United from three down to 3-2, Hernandez was completely unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box and powered a header home from a Ryan Giggs cross to hand his team a crucial point in the race for the Premier League title.
Mexico's other representatives in England did not fare as well, as neither Giovani dos Santos (Tottenham) nor Antonio Pedroza (Crystal) were named in matchday squads for their respective teams for midweek or weekend matches.
In Scotland, Efrain Juarez, recently returned to Celtic from a forgettable loan spell at Zaragoza, was not named in the matchday squad that defeated Inverness CT 2-0 in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup.
Dos Santos and Vela shine at the Camp Nou
There was plenty of action to be had on Saturday for Mexican players in Spain, with most of it to be found at the Camp Nou. After appearing in the final 10 minutes of Barcelona's Copa del Rey semifinal with Valencia, a 1-1 draw, Jonathan dos Santos was handed his first league start of the season for Barcelona's senior team against Real Sociedad and did not disappoint. He completed an impressive 58 passes in the first half and boasted 90 percent passing accuracy from the middle of the field before being replaced by Sergio Busquets in the 76th minute.
On the other side of things, Carlos Vela had to be content with starting on the bench for Sociedad, but delivered perhaps his team's biggest moment as they looked to overturn Barcelona's 2-0 advantage. Vela entered the game as a 58th minute substitute and just after Lionel Messi had doubled Barcelona's advantage, Vela latched onto a pass from Antoine Griezmann and finished under Victor Valdes to make it 2-1, though his team was unable to pick up any more goals in its eventual defeat.
Up in Bilbao, Hector Moreno played the full 90 minutes in Espanyol's wild 3-3 draw at Athletic and had a headed goal ruled out for an offside position. The result kept Espanyol two points ahead of Athletic and tied with Levante for Spain's fourth and final Champions League berth.
Elsewhere in La Liga, Pablo Barrera's Zaragoza continued to struggle, falling 2-1 at home to Rayo Vallecano with Barrera out of the matchday squad. Zaragoza sits firmly at the bottom of the table with just 12 points, currently 10 points away from safety.
In the second division, Andres Guardado and Deportivo La Coruna posted a seventh straight league win, a 1-0 result at Recreativo Huelva. Guardado played the full match as Deportivo remained three points clear at the top and five points clear of the playoff places. Anibal Zurdo played the full 90 minutes for Guadalajara in the weekend, but couldn't prevent his team from losing the fifth out of its last six matches, a 3-2 setback at Las Palmas. In the fourth division, Taufic Guarch did not feature for Espanyol's B team in its 1-1 draw at Pobla de Mafumet.
Castillo scores, but no playing time for others in Europe
Castillo's torrid form shows no signs of letting up, as he scored in his fifth straight match for Aris, taking his total to seven goals in the last five games. His most recent effort was the second goal in Aris' 2-0 win at Xanthi, thre team's third straight league victory. He showed good instinct to pounce on a rebound after the defense failed to clear its lines and ensured a win against a direct competitor for Europa League places.
In France, Guillermo Ochoa started once more for Ajaccio, but the team's four-game winning run was arrested by Nice, which scored an 85th minute equalizer to hold the Corsicans to a 1-1 draw. The result still pushed Ajaccio three points clear of the relegation zone.
After being part of Stuttgart lineups that conceded six goals in the past two games, Francisco Rodriguez was dropped to the bench for his team's trip to Bayer Leverkusen, where it pulled out a late equalizer for a 2-2 draw, though Rodriguez did not play. Edson Rivera was also named to the bench and did not play in Sporting Braga's late 1-0 win over Portimonense in the Portuguese League Cup, while Ulises Davila missed out on the squad entirely as Vitesse posted a 1-0 win over NAC Breda in the Dutch Eredivisie.
Finally, in Colombia, defender Mario Garcia played his first game of 2012 with Boyaca Chico, which earned a point against La Equidad thanks to a 90th minute penalty.