After a breathtaking week of FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers, there was more drama to contend with over the past weekend as action resumed in various leagues across the globe. FIFA.com examines a closely fought Apertura in Argentina, a topsy-turvy top of the league in South Africa and another championship win for Petro Luanda in Angola.
Argentina Apertura: Two points separate first and eighth
After nine matchdays of a tight Apertura, only the alphabet is separating Argentinos Juniors and Velez Sarsfield who possess identical records. Each side have won five, drawn three and lost just one of their matches so far as they sit in joint-third. However, it is Argentinos Juniors who are more happy with their placing after the weekend, as they moved up the table, while Velez slipped down from occupying joint-top spot.
Big game: ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?' Fortunately for San Lorenzo, Bernardo Romeo answered the fans' call by popping up shortly before half-time in their match against Rosario Central to take Los Azulgranas to the top of the table. Diego Simeone's men profited from other results going their way, but know that defeat in their next match could see them slip as low as eighth, a place that Banfield, the only other unbeaten side in the division, currently occupy.
Headline grabber: Matias Alustiza's equalizer gave Chacarita Juniors an unlikely draw at title challengers Independiente, giving them only their fourth point of the season. The forward was in the right place at the right time after a driving run from midfield from Omar Zarif before slotting past the keeper to equalise. It was enough to lift Los Funebreros off bottom place, edging them ahead of Tigre on goal difference.
Brasileirao: Battlers earn precious points
Relegation haunted Sport and Fluminense grabbed precious points at the weekend as they attempted to claw themselves out of the relegation zone. Goals from Arce and Wilson were enough to give Sport a 2-0 win over mid-table Corinthians in Recife, while a brace from Gum earned Flu a share of the spoils as they came from behind twice against Internacional.
Big game: Sao Paulo and Atletico Mineiro traded places in the Brasileirao thanks to Diego Tardelli's left footed finish from close range in the first minute of the match at the Morumbi. The win takes Atletico up to second, while O Tricolour Paulista slip to fourth.
Headline grabber: Two goals from veteran striker Dejan Petkovic gave Flamengo a 2-0 win over pacesetters Palmeiras. The 37-year-old struck in the 25th minute when he dribbled in from the left and unleashed a shot into the top corner and added a second on the hour when he curled the ball directly into the net from a corner kick. Wagner Love missed a late penalty for Palmeiras, but despite their first home defeat of the season, O Verdão still remain top.
American Major League Soccer: Sleepless in Seattle
Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy failed to answer any questions as to who would finish top of the Western Conference. The goalless draw in front of a near capacity crowd at the Robertson Stadium, ensures a three-way tie for first place, with Chivas USA also on 45 points. Moving eastwards, Columbus Crew still have a seven point lead over Chicago, despite losing at DC United.
Big game: Seattle Sounders became the first MLS expansion side since Chicago Fire in 1998 to clinch a place in the play-offs in their inaugural season thanks to a 3-2 victory at Kansas City Wizards. Tyrone Marshall gave Seattle a first half lead, but two goals in three minutes from Zoltan Hercegfalvi and Jogh Wolff put the home side ahead. Roger Levesque equalised for Seattle, before Nate Jaqua wrapped up the points with 14 minutes remaining.
Headline grabber: With his parents watching, Geoff Cameron made one of the most spectacular and important clearances of his career on Sunday to keep the scores level in Houston. With goalkeeper Pat Onstad stranded and Edson Buddle firing at an open goal from the edge of the box, it seemed as though the ball was destined for the back of the net. However, the 24-year-old sprinted back before turning the ball away from the line with an incredible bicycle kick.
Chinese Super League: Beijing maintain momentum
Beijing Guoan are within touching distance of their first-ever league title as a 2-0 win over Guangzhou Yiyao maintained their place at the top with only two matchdays remaining. But the capital-based side will have to be wary of second-placed Henan Jianye and Changchun Yatai who are breathing down their necks.
Big game: Despite playing without their influential Polish hitman Emmanuel Olisadebe, Henan made light work of Qingdao. Leandro Netto put the home side ahead after 24 minutes with a spot kick before Xiao Zhi doubled the lead with 15 minutes to go. Qu Bo pulled one back for the visitors, but Xiao Zhi scored his second of the game in the final minute to cap an important win.
Headline grabber: After holding hosts Tianjin to a goalless draw to overtake Henan last week, Beijing continued their good form by defeating Guangzhou at home, Australian striker Ryan Griffiths struck in either half to earn the home side a crucial three points.
South African Premiership: Do the Bartman
Boosted by the news that Dutch coach Foppe de Haan has been appointed head coach, Ajax Cape Town won their first home match of the season thanks to Sifiso Vilakazi's late goal against Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday, handing the visitors their first league defeat in the process. De Haan, a UEFA U-21 European Championship-winning coach officially takes up the position next month.
Big game: All eyes were on the clash between Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaiser Chiefs at the weekend; an entertaining fixture which finished 2-2. Katlego Mphela netted twice for Sundowns, but the man of the match was Chiefs' keeper Arthur Bartman. Deputising for the injured Itumeleng Khune, the custodian pulled off a number of fine saves to earn his side the draw.
Headline grabber: Erwin Isaacs goal on the stroke of half-time for Cape Town-based side Santos a handed Orlando Pirates their first defeat of the season. With Supersport United thrashing newly-promoted Mpumalanga Black Aces 5-0, the Johannesburg outfit lost their lead at the top of the table too.
A dramatic weekend in the Australian A-League ended with Gold Coast United back on top thanks to a couple of tight 2-1 victories. The first came on Friday for fifth-placed Adelaide United, who saw off leaders Sydney FC despite playing for over 80 minutes with ten men. That handed Gold Coast the chance to reclaim pole position with a win over Perth Glory and, despite struggling for long periods, the A-League debutants got the result they needed after the talismanic Shane Smeltz emerged as their hero once again with a 56th-minute winner.
There was a major shock in the Japanese J.League, meanwhile, where basement boys Oita Trinita came from behind to beat Shimizu S-Pulse 2-1, inflicting their visitors' first defeat in 14 matches and denying them top spot in the process. With fellow title contenders Kashima Antlers and Gamba Osaka also dropping points, the weekend's big winners were Kawasaki Frontale, who moved the front of the pack for the first time this season with a 3-2 win at Omiya Ardija.
Finally, congratulations go to Petro Luanda, who clinched their Angolan Girabola title with a game to spare. Already five points clear, the reigning champions were assured of retaining their crown - their 15th overall - even before beating ASA 2-1 on Sunday, thanks to challengers Benfica Luanda's 5-1 defeat to Primeiro de Agosto 24 hours earlier.