The Korean K-League playoffs got underway with a late twist in normal time preceding the drama of penalties as Gyeongnam and Pohang Steelers locked horns. An eleventh hour goal also proved the difference between two sides going head-to-head for a playoff place as the regular season reached its conclusion in Major League Soccer, while a stoppage time strike improved the leaders' postion atop of the Australian A-League standings.
Over in South America, El Superclasico lived up to expectations in Chile, Sao Paulo took a giant step towards retaining their crown in Brazil and an underdog took control of the Apertura title race in Argentina. With a new name at the summit in South Africa, too, FIFA.com reflects on the weekend's activity.
Korean K-League: Ulsan and Pohang progress
Ulsan Hyundai Horangi and Pohang Steelers will compete for the right to challenge Samsung Bluewings for a place in the K-League final after respective defeats of Daejeon and Gyeongnam. The pair did, however, achieve victory in contrasting fashion on Saturday. Ulsan reached the playoffs by virtue of finishing third in the regular season, and they vindicated their superiority over Daejeon, who clinched the final berth in the six-team series, with a comfortable 2-0 win.
The Steelers were leading 1-0 heading into the final five minutes, but the three-time champions conceded an equaliser to Brazilian goal-getter Cabore that took the game into extra time and, after a goalless 30 minutes, on to penalties. The Gyeongnam ace then missed his spot-kick and when team-mate Kim Geun-Cheol followed suit, Pohang's presence in the last four was confirmed.
Headline-grabber: Lee Sang-Ho, who represented Korea Republic at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, scored the opener and impressed throughout as Ulsan marched on in the playoffs.
Remaining fixtures: Ulsan Hyundai Horangi will play Pohang Steelers on 28 October, with the winner moving on to face Suwon Samsung Bluewings for a meeting with Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the final.
American Major League Soccer: Fire edge Galaxy for playoff
With a playoff place at stake for Chicago Fire and Los Angeles Galaxy on the final day of the regular season, the stage was set for David Beckham to steal the headlines when he entered the game in the 58th minute with the scoreboard at 0-0. However, his opponents did not read the script and in stoppage time, John Thorrington - ironically a player who cleaned the boots of Beckham and Co during an apprenticeship at Manchester United - broke the deadlock with his first goal for the Fire to bank them a two-legged clash against DC United.
Elsewhere, a brace from Scott Sealy helped Kansas City Wizards win 2-0 at the already-qualified FC Dallas to make sure of their place in the eight-team knockout series.
Big game: Playing at a numerical disadvantage for
the final 50 minutes, Chivas USA nonetheless eked out a goalless
draw against Houston Dynamo to pip their opponents to Western
Headline-grabber: All eyes were on Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, but it was the little-known Thorrington who proved the difference between Chicago Fire and Los Angeles Galaxy in front of a sold-out audience, his delightful chip clinching the former a 1-0 success.
MLS Playoff qualifiers: DC United (55 pts), Chivas USA (53), Houston Dynamo (52), New England Revolution (50), FC Dallas (44), New York Red Bulls (43), Chicago Fire (40), Kansas City Wizards (40)
Top scorers: Luciano Emilio (20 gls), Juan Pablo Angel (19), Taylor Twellman (16)
Argentinian Apertura: Lanus take over at the top
If Lanus' title credentials had been undermined going into the round, than their more fashionable rivals for honours will now be taking their challenge very seriously. Ahead of the closing five rounds, Ramon Cabrero's side replaced Independiente, 2-1 losers at home to San Lorenzo, atop of the standings thanks to a 2-0 defeat of San Martin.
Boca Juniors, third going into the weekend's play, also dropped points, Estudiantes holding the reigning South American champions to a 1-1 draw at the Bombonera, but fellow Buenos Aires heavyweights River Plate continued their late glory surge with a 2-0 win at Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata to move five points off the summit.
Big game: The hulking Gabriel Penalba netted the
only goal as Argentinos edged Racing Club to close to within four
points of the pace.
Headline-grabber: On only his second top flight start, Diego Buonanotte scored to put River Plate en route to their first away victory since May.
Top three: Lanus (27), Independiente (25 pts), Tigre (25)
Top scorers: German Denis (16 gls), Jose Sand (10), Martin Palermo (8), Facundo Sava (8)
Brazilian Championship: Sao Paulo stride towards title
Sao Paulo effectively wrapped up the defence of their Brasileiro crown by beating Cruzeiro, their nearest challengers going into the matchday, to establish a 13-point lead with just six rounds remaining. Jorge Wagner was the solitary marksman at the Morumbi following great work from Diego Tardelli.
With the top four guaranteed a place in next year's Copa Libertadores and favourites Cruzeiro and Santos both losing, Flamengo's maintained their stunning ascent from second-bottom. In front of nearly 74,000 supporters at the Maracana, the Rubro-Negro beat fellow aspirants Gremio 2-0 to leap to within three points of a coveted place among the continent's elite.
Big game: Despite a champion performance from
visiting keeper Felipe, a last-minute penalty from Geraldo snatched
Nautico a 1-0 win over Corinthians in their relegation battle. In
Timbu put five points between themselves and the drop
zone, while the
Paulista giants fell three points adrift of the survival
Headline-grabber: In his 150th game for the club, Goias midfielder Paulo Baier hit a hat-trick to inspire a 5-3 reverse of Fluminense which lifted his side three points clear of danger.
Top three: Sao Paulo (67 pts), Palmeiras (54), Cruzeiro (53)
Top scorers: Josiel (18 gls), Beto Acosta (17), Andre Lima (12), Dodo (12), Paulo Baier (12)
South African Premier League Soccer: Upsets at the
Rock-bottom and facing league leaders Bloemfontein Celtic, Orlando Pirates were in need of some inspiration. To the delight of their fans, it was provided by Excellent Walaza, whose second half double guided the Pirates to a 3-0 win. The result allowed Ajax Cape Town to assume pole position from Bloemfontein on goal difference, although Craig Rosslee's side will have been left disappointed by a 0-0 against struggling SuperSport United.
High-flying Bidvest Wits University were also held at home, winless Santos collecting a point from a trip to Johanessburg which dropped their hosts to fourth in the 16-team division.
Big game: Golden Arrows won 2-1 at defending
champions Mamelodi Sundowns to climb to third and leave their
opponents just one point off the bottom.
Headline-grabber: A superb, last-gasp header from James Chamanga earned Moroka Swallows all three points against Black Leopards and took them on to nine points from six outings.
Top three: Ajax Cape Town (13), Bloemfontein Celtic (13 pts), Golden Arrows (11)
Top scorers: Diyo Sibisi (6), Dumisani Ngwenya (3), Myron Shongwe (3), Norman Smith (3)
Central Coast Mariners forward Sasho Petrovski was moments away from ending his side's Australian A-League contest at Wellington Phoenix as a villain. The veteran striker had spurned two glaring, second half chances to score - the first after being sent through one-on-one with the keeper, the second from a penalty kick - leaving the scoreline at 1-1. But in time added on at the end of the game, Petrovski pounced to snatch the Mariners their first win in four attempts and move them three points clear at the top of the standings.
Sebastian Pinto completed his brace in stoppage time to earn Universidad de Chile a 2-2 draw at arch-rivals and defending champions Colo Colo in the Chilean Clausura. The result slipped Colo Colo to second in Group A behind Cobresal, who struck twice in the last ten minutes to beat Lota Schwager 2-0. Universidad remain in Group C's runners-up spot ahead of their closing six matches, with the top two in each pool progressing to the playoffs.