King Lee, Boca glee & a long-avoided red
© AFP

FIFA.com’s latest stats review salutes Boca Juniors’ title-clinching invincibility and Lee Dong-Gook’s record-breaking success at the annual K-League awards, while also featuring Javier Zanetti’s surprise dismissal and Fluminense’s avoiding of draws.

551

matches was what it took Javier Zanetti to collect his first red card in Serie A on Saturday. With Inter Milan losing 1-0 to Mauricio Isla’s 74th-minute strike - which was Udinese’s first away goal in 494 minutes in all competitions – the versatile 38-year-old tripped Colombian winger Pablo Armero inside the box and was handed a straight red. Zanetti’s only previous dismissal for I Nerazzurri came in injury time in a 2-0 loss to eventual champions Parma in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final in February 1999. On this occasion, from the resulting penalty, Udinese striker Antonio Di Natale failed to celebrate his 300th appearance in the Italian top tier with a goal due to the outstretched arm of Julio Cesar, before Inter were awarded a spot-kick of their own in the last minute. Up stepped Giampaolo Pazzini, but, handicapped by a slip, he ballooned the ball over, failing to end his 696-minute goal drought. It meant that ten of the last 18 penalties taken against Friulani keeper Samir Handanovic have not been converted, and it allowed the visitors to seize a first clean sheet in 31 attempts away to Inter, since a 1-0 victory in 1957.

27

matches unbeaten is what Boca Juniors strode on to with a 3-0 win over Banfield on Sunday to set their outright second-longest sequence without defeat in the 80-year-old professional era and clinch the Apertura crown with two rounds remaining. The conquest was Los Xeneizes’ 24th Argentinian championship, leaving them nine short of record winners River Plate. Boca’s title-clinching victory, in which Juan Roman Riquelme made his 600th career appearance, took Julio Cesar Falcioni’s team on to 15 wins and 12 draws since a 2-0 loss at Lanus on 10 April, outranking the 26 contests they survived without a loss in the 1940s and leaving them 13 shy of the club’s – and Argentina’s – all-time record, which was set by Carlos Bianchi’s class of the late ‘90s. If Boca remain unbeaten in their remaining two games of the ongoing Apertura – away to mid-table Arsenal and at home to 14th-placed All Boys – they will become the first team in the last 26 Argentinian championships to go the entire 19-game campaign unbeaten. Furthermore, having conceded just four goals thus far – an average of less than one every four matches – Boca are on course to break their own record for the least goals leaked since the current format was adopted in 1990: six in the Clausura 1991.

9

was the points total with which APOEL won Group G in the UEFA Champions League last night, making them just the third side to top their pool with fewer than ten since the introduction of the three-points-for-a-victory system for the 1995/96 season. The Cypriot outsiders went into their first-phase swansong having won two and drawn three of their first five outings, and a 2-0 loss at home to Shakhtar Donetsk left them on less than double figures but above second-placed Zenit due to a superior head-to-head record. Juventus, who drew five of their group games to finish on eight points in 1998/99, and Real Madrid, who managed nine in 2002/03, are the only other teams to win their UEFA Champions League pool on fewer than ten points. APOEL, who scored six and conceded as many, also become the first side since Lyon in 2003/04 to win their group without a positive goal difference.

5

was the record number of awards Lee Dong-Gook picked up at the annual K-League awards ceremony last night. The 32-year-old striker collected a winners’ medal for helping Jeonbuk Motors emerge as champions, won the Most Valuable Player and FANtastic Player gongs, was named in the South Korean top flight’s Best XI and finished as its top assister on 15 – an all-time record in the 1983-incepted K-League. The only award Lee could have pocketed but didn’t this year was the top scorer one he seized by inspiring Jeonbuk to their maiden title two years ago – this time around the former Werder Bremen and Middlesbrough man finished as the second-leading marksman behind Dejan Damjanovic of FC Seoul. Lee nonetheless now stands as the only player to have claimed all six of the K-League’s individual awards, having been crowned the Rookie of the Year while at Pohang Steelers in 1998.

3

draws is the total with which Fluminense ended their 38-game Brasileirao 2011 campaign on Sunday – the lowest number any side has recorded since the competition adopted its current, straight-league format for the 2003 edition. Not even a 1-1 stalemate with Botafogo could deny O Tricolor outranking Cruzeiro, who tied four matches in 2008. Interestingly, only seven teams lost more times than Flu this term, but a return of 20 victories – the same number that propelled them to the title last year – ensured Abel Braga’s men came home third. Fred’s goal at the weekend, the 28-year-old Brazil striker’s ninth in his last four outings, ensured he finished as the Brasileirao’s 22-goal joint-leading marksman, alongside Borges of Santos, and that Fluminense edged bitter rivals Flamengo as the division’s 60-goal top-scoring team.