Featured Image: Depor
The weekend started off very positively for Peruvians abroad. Edison Flores was electric, Anderson Santamaría dominated and even Alexi Gómez shined in his debut for Gimnasia La Plata.
Then Yoshimar Yotún, who made his full debut for Cruz Azul, had a night to forget after receiving a red card after just 15 minutes.
However, there were a couple of intriguing surprises. Carlos Zambrano (!) started for Basel as they continue their pursuit of Champions League football. He faced fellow Peruvian descendant Jean-Pierre Rhyner and came out on top.
With so much action this past weekend, here is a closer look at the Peruvians abroad who took part.
I was tweeting this during the match, but if this Edison Flores shows up for Peru at the 2019 Copa América, then the attack will be even more dangerous.
Flores created a game-high six chances – all in the first half – in Monarcas Morelia’s 2-1 loss to Atlas. If Morelia had a clinical No. 9, then almost all of these opportunities would’ve been converted.
You know when Flores gallops towards the box with his twinkle-toe dribbling? Well, that’s when you know he’s high on confidence.
Case in point:
How close can you get to scoring without actually doing so?
This close, apparently.
There was a slight decline from Flores in the second half, but Monarcas were pretty woeful in the final third. All in all, it was a strong performance from the Peruvian winger, which has been the case in the Clausura thus far.
There’s something about Anderson Santamaría and Rojinegro that just fits.
Santamaría has put together three solid performances for Atlas, all as a right-sided centre-back, which is why he deserves more plaudits for how quickly he’s adjusted to the new role at Atlas. It’s led to two victories in those three matches as well.
Friday saw more of the same from Santamaría. He was tremendous in the air, and no Monarcas forward profited whenever the Peruvian defender was in the vicinity of a cross.
But most importantly, Santamaría’s confidence to roam forward is back. He actually spent more time in the midfield than he did around the penalty area.
To top it off, Santamaría completed 35 of his 37 passes. Slowly but surely, his pre-World Cup form is returning and that’s fantastic news for Peru with the March friendlies coming up.
Within seven minutes of stepping onto the pitch, Alexi Gómez made an impact for Gimnasia La Plata.
An 80th-minute substitute, Gómez lashed a shot from distance into the top corner, wrapping up a 3-1 win for Gimnasia over Tigre.
— El Ultimo Diez (🔟) (@diez_ultimo) February 2, 2019
It was also Gómez’s official debut for Gimnasia since he joined from Universitario. After the match, the 25-year-old praised his manager Pedro Troglio, who coached him at La U, for instilling confidence in the Peruvian international’s game.
— Alexi Gomez (@alexi_gomez30) February 2, 2019
We all know about Gómez indiscipline and occasional indifference when he plays. That’s why it’s the perfect situation for Gómez. He’s surely aware that this is his last chance to carve out a career abroad, so linking up with Troglio could be beneficial.
So far, so good.
Speaking of impactful substitutions, Irven Ávila assisted on Monarcas Morelia’s equalizer, but they conceded shortly thereafter and fell 2-1 to Atlas.
— LIGA Bancomer MX (@LIGABancomerMX) February 2, 2019
You have to wonder if Ávila might’ve helped Monarcas pick up a win if he was introduced earlier.
Tondela’s 2-2 draw with Rio Ave was frantic from the kickoff to the final whistle.
Despite the choas, Sergio Peña seemed comfortable. However, some of his through balls had a little too much mustard on them.
He remained very active defensively, though. Peña recovered possession eight times, most of which kickstarted some promising attacks.
Peña deployed as an advanced midfielder is the way to go. That’s why it’s surprising Ricardo Gareca has deployed the 23-year-old in a deeper role. It’s obvious that he prefers operating in the attacking half of the pitch, and his performances with Tondela back it up.
This wasn’t as dominant a performance from Renato Tapia compared to his first three games with Willem II. This was due to Groningen successfully exploiting the open space left by Tapia whenever he bursted forward.
One look at Tapia’s heat map from Saturday’s game shows that he was – not for the first time – allowed the freedom to roam forward. Unfortunately, it left Willem II exposed.
That being said, he didn’t misplace any passes in dangerous areas, so at least he was assured in possession.
The one issue that hurts Tapia in terms of his growth in Europe is that positional awareness. If he manages to gain this trait while on loan at Willem, then perhaps the 23-year-old can earn a move in the summer. Otherwise, he could be stuck in a precarious position.
Before diving into Yoshimar Yotún starting at left-back, I want to highlight the actual foul he committed.
This is never a red card. At most, it’s a booking and a penalty. Sending off Yotún when the actual foul itself is not endangering the opponent is bizarre.
Unfortunately, this means Yotún is suspended for another match and if he returns, it will likely be on the left side of the defence. This is baffling considering the Peruvian would be a huge upgrade for Cruz Azul if he was in the midfield.
Whether Pedro Caixinha realizes this remains to be seen.
Al-Nassr lost 3-1 to Al-Taawoun and lost ground to league leaders Al-Hilal in the process. But Christian Ramos had nothing to do with the defence conceding three goals.
In fact, the Peruvian centre-back was quite solid in possession. He was the outlet for Al-Nassr and looked very comfortable in that role. Unfortunately, the back line isn’t the fastest and were punished on the counter.
Yes, he’s back.
The last time Carlos Zambrano started a league match was on Nov. 5, 2017. In classic Zambrano fashion, he was sent off in that match for PAOK against AEK Athens.
Fast forward 14 months and the enigmatic Peruvian completed 80 minutes as Basel crushed Grasshoppers 4-0. Assuming Basel finish second in the Swiss Super League, that’d secure a spot in the second qualifying round in the Champions League. That means we could see another Peruvian in the group stage next season.
But as for Sunday’s match, Zambrano was surprisingly poised despite his lack of minutes.
Most impressive of all was Zambrano’s passing. He only misplaced three of 66 attempts.
And only because people will be wondering: No, Zambrano was not booked or sent off.
Once Grasshoppers were reduced to 10 men, Rhyner and the rest of the team became overwhelmed and the floodgates open.
It’s really difficult to properly critique an individual player in these situations. However, Rhyner was pretty flustered when Basel pressed high up the pitch. This usually led to the odd turnover, though none resulted in a goal.