Mexicans Abroad Recap: Chicharito scores, assists galore in Spain

Javier Hernandez and Mario Garcia were both on target for their teams in the past week, while other Mexicans abroad lent a helping hand to their teammates

Javier Hernandez was the only Mexican player in Europe to get on the scoresheet this past week (though another found the net in South America), marking a fairly quiet week for Mexicans abroad in terms of scoring. However, plenty of his compatriots in Spain lent a helping hand to their teammates, with three separate players tallying assists in the weekend's action.

Europa elation

Manchester Untied made a big step toward the last 16 of the Europa League with a 2-0 win at Ajax in the first leg of the two teams' round of 32 tie. Hernandez started and played the whole game, and came up with an important second away goal to all but secure his team's place in the next round. He finished off a well-worked counterattacking move in the 85th minute with an effort that Ajax goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer managed to get a hand to, but couldn't prevent from falling into the net.

In addition to its comfortable advantage, United has plenty of time to prepare for the second leg at Old Trafford this upcoming Thursday, as it was out of action over the weekend. The focus in England turned from the Premier League to the FA Cup, from which the Red Devils were eliminated by Liverpool in the previous round.

There was less fortune for Mexico's other representatives in England and Scotland, as none of Giovani dos Santos (Tottenham; 0-0 draw Stevenage in the FA Cup), Antonio Pedroza (Crystal Palace; 2-2 draw at Bristol City, 4-0 win vs. Watford), or Efrain Juarez (Celtic; 5-0 win at Hibernian) were called up for their respective teams.

Brother, can you lend me a pass?

A nearly full contingent of Mexican players was in action over the weekend in Spain and a good portion of them were more than happy to set up goals for their teams.

For Barcelona, Jonathan dos Santos was named to the bench but didn't feature in the team's 3-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, but moved back down to the B team for the first time in over a month for the weekend's game, where it travelled to Andres Guardado's league-leading Deportivo La Coruña in the second division.

Both dos Santos and Guardado featured prominently in that game, as both were handed starts. Guardado went 89 minutes and contributed in the buildup to Deportivo's first goal. After Deportivo had staked itself to a 2-0 lead, dos Santos set up a tense finish by providing Armando with the service he required to pull one back for Barcelona in the 82nd minute. However, dos Santos then ended his team's comeback hopes three minutes later by picking up a second yellow card, ensuring a record-equalling ninth straight win for Deportivo, which now has a comfortable lead in the league.

Back in the first division, Hector Moreno was handed the start for Espanyol in its trip to Getafe and helped put his side in the lead. He lofted an accurate long ball straight to Alvaro, who timed his run behind Getafe's defense to perfection and coolly finished on 66 minutes. However, Espanyol would concede a penalty just a few minutes later, meaning it could only come away with a 1-1 draw.

Carlos Vela's recent run of form was not enough to earn him the start in Real Sociedad's trip to Granada, but he did play 24 minutes off the bench. He was powerless, however, to stop Granada from rolling to a 4-1 win.

In the closing match of La Liga on Monday, Pablo Barrera was named to the bench as Real Zaragoza hosted Real Betis in a vital relegation battle, and entered as a 59th minute substitute. However, he was unable to help his team turn things around as it fell 2-0, leaving it stuck at the foot of the table and 11 points adrift of safety.

In the lower divisions, Anibal Zurdo played the full game in Guadalajara's 2-1 loss at Huesca in its second division relegation showdown.

Lastly, Taufic Guarch's first appearance in over a month coincided with Espanyol B's first win of 2012, and it was the recent U-20 World Cup star that set up the lone goal of the game at CD Masnou in the Tercera Division (fourth level). Guarch's cross found the head of Moha, who finished to give Espanyol the win and move it back into the playoff spots as it fights for promotion to Spain's Segunda B.

Little luck elsewhere in Europe

Guillermo Ochoa kept another clean sheet for Ajaccio, his fourth of the season, but a missed penalty ensured the team drew 0-0 against visiting Brest, hampering its effort to move away from the relegation places. Ochoa was rarely called into action, having to make only two saves.

Francisco Rodriguez was back in the starting lineup for Stuttgart's visit to Hannover after having to watch his team's thrashing of Hertha BSC the previous weekend from the bench. Unfortunately for him, Stuttgart's defensive woes returned, as it shipped four goals in a 4-2 loss to Hannover, with Rodriguez playing the full game.

Nery Castillo's comeback hit a roadblock in Aris' showdown with archrival PAOK. The recently-revitalized forward was handed the start, but was forced to come off in the 57th minute with muscular problems and the scoreline at 0-0, which is how it remained for the rest of the encounter.

In Portugal, Edson Rivera was not called up for either Braga's 0-2 loss at home to Besiktas in the Europa League, nor for its 3-0 win at Gil Vicente in domestic action over the weekend. Ulises Davila, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem from Chelsea, was named to the bench but did not play in his side's 4-1 loss at home to FC Twente.

Garcia plays hero for Boyaca

After being rested in Boyaca Chico's midweek Copa Colombia win over Cucuta, Marcio Garcia returned to the starting lineup with his side looking for its first league win of 2012. It was the defender that stepped up, too, slamming the ball home from the edge of the area after a well-worked set play to give the team a 1-0 win over visiting Once Caldas, moving it off the bottom of the table.

Looking ahead

The Croatian league will resume action this upcoming weekend after nearly three months off for winter. Jose Delgadillo and seventh-placed Rijeka will travel to Varazdin on Friday, looking to push towards Croatia's Europa League spots.

Two weeks after, MLS will kick off its 2012 season. Though the number of Mexicans on MLS rosters looks to be down this year, the likes of Rafael Marquez and Pavel Pardo will be returning, while young players like Rafael Baca (San Jose Earthquakes) and Ruben Luna (FC Dallas), among others, will look to build on promising 2011 seasons as they continue to make a name for themselves.