River Plate continued their recovery in Argentina, Adriano and Muricy Ramalho got off to shaky starts in Brazil, and Pumas UNAM stayed in charge in Mexico. FIFA.com has these stories and more in its latest look at the Americas’ league scene.
Argentinian Clausura: Future still uncertain for River
River Plate moved out front in Argentina with a 1-0 win at home to Banfield. River’s goal hero was Mariano Pavone, though they were also indebted to superb performances from goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo and veteran midfielder Matias Almeyda. Despite their lofty position, Los Millonarios still have the threat of relegation hanging over them following their poor performances in recent seasons, which have left them with a low points average.
Big game: Though Velez Sarsfield could be excused for thinking about their crucial Copa Libertadores meeting with Caracas later this week, they still got the job done against Newell’s Old Boys, easing to a 2-0 win courtesy of goals from Santiago Silva and Augusto Fernandez. El Fortín remain just a point behind River with a game in hand.
Headline-grabber: While their big Buenos Aires rivals are on the recovery trail, Boca Juniors continue to struggle. Sunday’s 2-0 reverse at Lanus left them in a lowly 16th place, with veteran centre-forward Martin Palermo having now gone nine games without a goal.
Mexican Clausura: Derby joy for Guadalajara
Erick Torres’ 27th-minute header set Guadalajara up for an ultimately comfortable win in the superclásico against America. As their opponents chased the game, Chivas hit at will on the counter-attack, with substitute Marco Fabian de la Mora collecting a second-half brace to complete the scoring and take his side to 21 points and second place in Group 1. Despite defeat, America remain second in Group 2, behind Atlante, 3-1 winners over Atlas, on goal difference.
Big game: Cruz Azul left the pitch to a chorus of boos after going down 3-2 in a thrilling game at home to Monarcas Morelia. Christian Gimenez opened the scoring for Los Cementeros, with Rafael Marquez Lugo and Elias Hernandez putting the visitors in charge after the restart. Back came Cruz through Waldo Ponce, although Monarcas had the final say when Hernandez pounced again in injury time to take his side into second in Group 3, three points clear of their hosts.
Headline-grabber: There seems to be no stopping Pumas UNAM in the 2011 Clausura, even if they did leave it late against fellow felines Tigres at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario. There were just two minutes remaining when Israel Castro put the league leaders ahead, with Juan Carlos Cacho converting a stoppage-time spot-kick to make the game safe and keep Pumas four points clear of the pack.
Brazilian state championships: Surprises in Sao Paulo
Palmeiras stayed on top in the Paulistão after beating bottom club Gremio Prudente on Saturday and Sao Paulo kept their fine form up with a 4-1 defeat of Noroeste, though there were problems for the state’s other big two. New coach Muricy Ramalho failed to inspire Santos as they drew 0-0 with Americana, while Corinthians went down 2-1 at home to Sao Caetano after parading recent signing Adriano to the Pacaembu faithful. Those results meant Santos and Corinthians lost further ground on leaders Palmeiras and second-placed Sao Paulo, now six and five points clear respectively. All four sides are guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals, however.
Big game: Flamengo took their unbeaten run to 21 games with a hard-earned 2-0 defeat of Rio foes Botafogo at the Engenhao. Thiago Neves scored both goals for Fla as they checked into the semi-finals of the Rio Cup alongside Group A rivals Vasco da Gama. Third in Group B, O Fogão are now three points behind Olaria and Fluminense, who thumped Americano 5-1.
Headline-grabber: The prospect of a Gremio-Internacional quarter-final loomed large for a while in the Farroupilha Cup, phase two of the Rio Grande do Sul Championship. Trailing 1-0 to Santa Cruz with three minutes remaining, a result that would consign them to a last-eight meeting with Internacional, who hammered Universidade 6-2, Gremio earned an all-important point when Borges scored from the spot. Finishing third in their group, O Tricolor now travel to Ypiranga in the last eight, while Inter take on Santa Cruz at home.
American Major League Soccer: Philadelphia power to the top
Roger Torres’ first ever MLS goal gave Philadelphia Union a hard-fought win over New York Red Bulls. The 19-year-old Colombian midfielder seized on a mistake by defender Tim Ream to score the only goal of the game a minute after coming on for Carlos Ruiz. The men from Pennsylvania now have a three-point lead over New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference.
Big game: The Revolution suffered their first defeat of the season at home to Real Salt Lake, who maintained their perfect record with a comfortable 2-0 victory, the goals coming from Chris Schuler and Paulo Araujo Jr. Now the only unbeaten team in the land, Real have scored seven and conceded one in their opening three matches and stand joint top of the Western Conference with Colorado Rapids, having played a game less.
Headline-grabber: Charlie Davies was the hero of the hour as DC United drew 1-1 with fellow big guns Los Angeles Galaxy. Having just returned to the game after a serious car accident, Davies won and converted a last-minute penalty to secure a share of the spoils for United.
Universidad Catolica stayed out front in Chile as Jose Luis Villanueva and Francisco Pizarro scored to give them a 2-0 win over Cobreloa. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side now stand on 28 points, seven ahead of nearest rivals Universidad de Chile, who drew 2-2 at Deportivo Iquique.
Clear leaders just a few weeks ago, Olimpia were joined at the top in Paraguay by Nacional. While El Decano were playing out a 1-1 draw with Independiente, Nacional saw off Guarani 2-1 to chalk up their fourth straight win and move level with the leaders on 27 points, all with a game in hand.
Nacional and Penarol are having a private duel of their own in Uruguay. The two frontrunners both earned fifth consecutive wins at the weekends, with Nacional overcoming Tacuarembo and Los Manyas winning at Danubio. El Bolso lead the way with 22 points, three more than their eternal rivals.