FIFA.com’s weekly review of domestic action across the globe takes in the season opening round in Japan, plus shock defeats for frontrunners in Argentina and Mexico. The season now has just two matches to run in Australia while exploits across the leagues of Iran, Fiji, Bolivia and Kenya are also reviewed.
J.League: Champions open brightly
Kashima Antlers commenced their title defence in winning fashion as goals from Shinzo Koroki and Marquinhos sealed a 2-0 reverse of Urawa Reds. Omiya Ardija took a slender lead at the top on goal difference with a 3-0 home triumph against Cerezo Osaka.
Big game: Last year’s runners-up Kawasaki Frontale beat Albirex Niigata 2-1 at home with early goals from Brazilian midfielder Renatinho and forward Masaru Kurotsu. The match also marked the first J.League appearance in nine years for Japan midfielder Junichi Inamoto, who debuted for Kawasaki.
Headline-grabber: Fresh from helping Australia qualify for the AFC Asian Cup in midweek, Josh Kennedy continued his good J.League form of last season with the winner for Nagoya Grampus against 2008 Asian champions Gamba Osaka. The ambitious Nagoya side emerged 2-1 victors thanks to Kennedy’s strike midway through the second half.
Argentinian Clausura: Change at the top
Independiente claimed outright ownership of top spot with a 2-0 home win over River Plate, Dario Gandin and Nestor Silvera grabbing the goals either side of the interval. Previous leaders Godoy Cruz lost for the first time in the campaign - 2-1 at Newell's Old Boys - in a match which saw both teams reduced to ten men.
Big game: Argentinos Juniors scored a vital 1-0 victory over Velez Sarsfield to stay in touch with the leading pack. The decisive moment came six minutes from time with Marco Torsiglieri forcing the ball into his own net.
Headline-grabber: Joaquin Boghossian was responsible for blowing open the Clausura title race, scoring a double against Godoy Cruz. The Uruguayan forward equalised from the penalty spot in the first half, and then scored what proved to be the winner four minutes after the interval.
Mexican Bicentenario: Leaders stunned
Overall leaders Guadalajara finally lost after eight consecutive wins, and it was a shockingly one-sided defeat: 4-0 away to rock-bottom Jaguares, who claimed their first victory in the process. Elsewhere, Pumas came from a goal behind to humble Puebla 4-1 and keep in touch with Group 3 leaders Santos, who won 4-2 against Atlante thanks, largely, to a Vicente Matías Vuoso double.
Big game: Defending champions Monterrey, who sit second in the overall table, two points behind Guadalajara, put more space between them and Pachuca in Group 2 with a 3-0 win over Los Tuzos. Hector Morales put them ahead in the 18th minute before Walter Ayovi and Val Baiano made sure of the home win with late goals. On 13 points, Pachuca were hoping to make up ground on Monterrey, but the northern side have now extended their tally to 22 points.
Headline-grabber: Antonio Lopez grabbed a hat-trick to help America climb to fifth place in the overall standings with a 6-0 win over Queretaro on Sunday. The angular 20-year-old scored twice within the space of three first-half minutes, before completing his treble early in the second period.
Iran Pro League: Surprise draw for league leaders
Round 28 witnessed a surprise draw for leaders Sepahan as they were held 1-1 at Traktorsazi at the Yadegar-e Emam Stadium in front of more than 50,000 spectators. The result trimmed Sepahan’s lead to just four points as second-placed Zob Ahan closed in following their 1-0 victory over Shahin Bushehr.
Big game: Esteghlal of Tehran got sweet revenge over Esteghlal of Ahvaz by winning their contest 2-0, The capital club were beaten 3-2 by their Ahvazi counterparts in their first meeting.
Headline-grabber: Ali Karimi scored a quick-fire brace to help Steel Azin to a thrilling 4-3 win over Saipa. The result helped Steel Azin consolidate fifth.
Melbourne Victory reached the Australian A-League championship decider but needed extra time to see off Sydney FC 4-3 on aggregate, with Archie Thompson grabbing the decisive goal. The Sydneysiders will now tackle Wellington Phoenix, who ended Newcastle Jets' season with a 3-1 win in extra time in front of a record New Zealand domestic crowd of nearly 33,000.
In the Fijian National League, Labasa took full advantage of Lautoka's absence due to OFC O-League commitments to move top with an impressive 3-0 win at Suva. The national U-20 team, competing in the league as preparation for the Oceania U-20 championships, claimed their first win with a 5-0 victory against Tavua.
The Bolivian National League kicked-off with champions Blooming relying on a lone strike from Lorgio Alvarez to see off Universitario Sucre. San Jose took an early lead at the top on goal difference with a 3-0 triumph against Guabira.
The Kenyan Premier League has a new frontrunner, with KCB claiming top spot thanks to 2-1 win over Sofapaka. Previous leaders Tusker went down by the same scoreline at Sher Karuturi.