Leaders stutter as races tighten
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Occasionally it happens: after a period of action, drama and goals comes a relatively quiet weekend. Japan in particular experienced such a phenomenon, although there were unusually muted performances by the leaders in Brazil and Russia as well, and a shock at the top in Slovakia. Meanwhile, the Mexican league came firing out of the blocks with a defeat for the champions in the opening round. FIFA.com reviews the pick of the weekend action.

Japanese J-League: Draws all round
A series of draws at the top of the table ensured that Kashima retained their slender two-point advantage over Urawa Reds and Nagoya Grampus Eight. In the clash of the top two, Kashima looked set to extend their lead after holding a 1-0 lead until late in the second half, but Tatsuya Tanaka's late strike gave the Red Devils a precious away point to keep them within striking distance at the top. The game was one of six draws in a tense J-League round.

Big game: Nagoya took an early lead away to Kawasaki Frontale on Saturday, and must have been harbouring hopes of joining Kashima at the summit. But Vitor Junior's goal in the 52nd minute squared the ledger, and Nagoya remained two points shy of the leaders.
Headline-grabber: Gamba Osaka were expected to continue their charge at home to Oita Trinita, but defender Yuki Fukaya's goal in the 69th minute gave the visitors a shock win, which took them to within a point of their hosts.

Brasileirao: Bad day for leaders
Not one of the top three in Brazil could register a win in Round 15, even though Gremio and Flamengo were at home and Vitoria were facing an out-of-sorts Atletico Mineiro. O Mengão drew a blank against Botafogo in the Rio derby, while Gremio, after thumping seven past Figueirense in midweek, could only draw 1-1 away to Palmeiras. Vitoria could not continue their impressive run up the table, going down 2-1 at the Mineirão. 

Big game: Portuguesa would have been expecting to pull off a notable upset in their paulista derby with Sao Paulo when they went 1-0 up early in the second half. But a goal blitz by the home side thereafter ensured an eventual 3-1 win, and a rise up the table to fourth - only three points behind the leaders.
Headline-grabber: Lowly Santos, involved in a six-goal thriller with Palmeiras in midweek, went one better by thrashing Vasco da Gama in a seven-goal game. Kleber Pereira notched a hat-trick as his side recorded a 5-2 win, and picked up a badly-needed three points.

USA Major League Soccer: Galactic disaster as Dallas dominate
Some of LA Galaxy's stars might have been expected to be on the weary side following their excursion to Toronto for the MLS All-Stars match, but few would have predicted a 4-0 defeat by FC Dallas for the Western Conference's glamour side. Chicago Fire, meanwhile, failed to make much ground on New England over east, baulked by a 0-0 draw in Kansas City. A 1-1 draw in the basement battle between San Jose and the New York Red Bulls did neither side any good.

Big game: Columbus Crew's Steven Lenhart could not have had a much more dramatic first start in the MLS: after scoring the away side's first goal after 21 minutes, he was sent off before the end of the half. Yet Columbus held on, and even snatched a late goal in the battle of the "MLS originals".
Headline-grabber: With his two goals against LA Galaxy, FC Dallas's tall forward Kenny Cooper moved up to 11 goals for the season, and is now hot on the heels of Landon Donovan in the chase for the MLS Golden Boot.

Russian Super League: Zenit's charge halts
Turkish striker Fatih Tekke's first-half send-off took the wind out of Zenit St. Petersburg's sails, as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Dinamo Moscow. It was small consolation for Dick Advocaat's UEFA Cup holders that the top two, Rubin Kazan and Amkar Perm, could only manage 0-0 draws at home, against CSKA Moscow and Tom Tomsk respectively. Another Moscow side, Spartak, put their dreadful recent spell behind them with a 3-0 win over Energiya Vladivostok.
Big game: Lokomotiv triumphed in the derby against FC Moscow, running out 3-0 winners. It was Nigerian Peter Odemwingie who did most of the damage, scoring either side of half-time to leave the hosts looking enviously up the table at the four other Moscow sides closing in on the top two.
Headline-grabber: There aren't many better times to score your first league goal than in a city derby, and Lokomotiv's Denis Glushakov did just that. His scything run and finish gave Loko their second goal in the 3-0 win over hapless FC Moscow.

Elsewhere
Battle commenced in Mexico at the weekend, and Atlas demonstrated their intent to improve upon last year's results with a 5-0 thrashing of Jaguares. A late rally by last season's champions Santos Laguna was insufficient to secure them a result against America, who ran out 3-2 winners, Paraguayan star Salvador Cabanas netting a brace.

Perhaps their UEFA Champions League exertions have caught up with Artmedia, because the Slovakian champions were stunned by a 2-0 home defeat by MSK Zilina. In the Swiss Super League, FC Basel's Australian connection served them well against Bellinzona, with Scott Chipperfield and Ivan Ergic scoring the goals in a 2-0 success that maintained the champions' perfect early-season start. Joining them at the top were Aarau, who also needed some foreign help to overcome FC Zurich: Cameroonian Patrick Bengondo scored the winner for the northern side.