Mixed bag for title candidates
There was plenty of incident to keep the world's football fans entertained in the final round of league games before this week's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers. FIFA.com rounds up the latest championship news from Mexico, Argentina, USA, Brazil, Japan, Nigeria and Uruguay.
Mexican Clausura: No let-up from the leaders
Joint pacesetters Toluca and Pachuca kept up their imperious form with a brace of resounding wins. The defending champions consigned the ever-dangerous Cruz Azul to a 3-1 defeat, while Los Tuzos strolled to a 3-0 victory over bottom-placed Necaxa, all the goals coming from Argentinian centre-forward Christian Gimenez. Puebla stayed in touch with Pachuca in Group 1 by winning 1-0 at Atlante.
Big game: The much-awaited clásico between Pumas UNAM and America was high on tension and passion but low on quality football. Of the two, Los Felinos were happier with the 0-0 draw, the result allowing them to stay four points clear at the top of Group 2.
Headline grabber: Jaguares confirmed their status as the surprise package of the season by downing Monterrey 1-0 at home. The three points keeps Miguel Brindisi's side within touching distance of Toluca in Group 3.
Argentinian Clausura: Lanus lose their way
Huracan turned on the style again as they halted Lanus' title charge with a convincing 3-0 win. Javier Pastore was El Globo's man of the day, scoring twice as they moved up to fifth. Lanus remain top although their lead over the chasing pack is down to one point. Colon moved into second after easing to a 3-0 win over a misfiring San Lorenzo side, while River Plate jumped up to third courtesy of a 2-1 defeat of San Martin.
Big game: River were made to work hard for the points at the Monumental after falling behind early and being outclassed for long periods. Los Millonarios stuck to their task, though, pulling level before Colombian striker Radamel Falcao capped a late siege with a stoppage-time penalty.
Headline grabber: Title contenders Velez Sarsfield and Boca Juniors both failed to win on their travels. While El Fortín were being held 1-1 by Central in Rosario, Los Xeneizes were playing out a goalless draw with Tigre in Victoria.
USA's MLS: Crew hold Houston
MLS returned at the weekend with a high-profile clash between 2006 and 2007 champions Houston Dynamo and current title holders Columbus Crew. The points looked to be Houston-bound until Crew's Argentinian goalgetter Guillermo Barros Schelotto popped up with the equaliser nine minutes from time. Three title aspirants who did kick off with wins were New England Revolution, 1-0 victors at San Jose Earthquakes, Chivas USA, 2-1 winners over Colorado Rapids, and Chicago Fire, who prevailed 3-1 at FC Dallas.
Big game: Los Angeles Galaxy have not won their opening league game since 2005 but were relieved to escape with a draw from their home clash with DC United. Trailing 2-0 with ten minutes remaining, the Galaxy were indebted to two late goals from captain Landon Donovan.
Headline grabber: Seattle Sounders had an MLS debut to remember as they swept to a 3-0 win over New York Red Bulls in front of a bumper 32,000 crowd. Colombian front man Fredy Montero was the hero of the night with two well-taken goals.
Brazilian State Championships: Corinthians on song again
After going two years without winning a Sao Paulo derby, Corinthians finally earned some local bragging rights with a 1-0 defeat of Santos, the only goal of the game coming from Dentinho. O Timão now lie second in the Sao Paulo Championship, four points behind Palmeiras, who drew 1-1 with Guaratingueta. With just four rounds of games to go, the other two semi-final slots are held by Sao and Portuguesa.
Big game: Vasco da Gama beat Flamengo 2-0 in a fiery Rio de Janeiro clásico that saw five sent off. Vasco, who had not beaten Fla since 2007, remain top of their section in the Taça Rio and look odds-on to claim one of the semi-final berths.
Headline grabber: The irrepressible Ronaldo is already setting targets for himself. "Ideally, I'd like to play a game a week as part of my comeback. That's around 30 games. As far as goals are concerned, I reckon I could score around 30 too. It's a good number and I like it. I've already got two and I think it's a good target."
Japanese J.League: All change at the top
Kyoto Purple Sanga downed Gamba Osaka 2-1 to end their unbeaten record and knock them off their perch at the top of the J-League. The two sides are now locked together on six points, one behind new leaders Albirex Niigata and Nagoya Grampus Eight, who are separated by a single goal.
Big game: An injury-time goal from Shinzo Koroki helped reigning champions Kashima Antlers notch a 2-1 win at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima and move into fourth, one point off the lead.
Headline grabber: Delsinho maintained his hot streak by scoring in Jubilo Iwata's 1-1 draw with Urawa Red Diamonds. The Brazilian hitman has got on the scoresheet in every game this season and is the country's top marksman with four goals.
The battle for the Nigerian Premier League remains wide open with nine games remaining. Leaders Bayelsa United shared the points in a 1-1 draw at fourth-placed Enugu Rangers, while closest challengers Heartland FC went down 2-0 at Gombe United. The gap between the two is now five points although Heartland can go top if they win their two games in hand. The mighty Enyimba took advantage of the leading duo's slip-ups by beating Sunshine Stars 2-1 to cut the gap on Bayelsa to six points.
Although the Uruguayan Clausura is barely under way, Defensor Sporting have already made their intentions clear. Their latest statement of intent came in Saturday's 1-0 win over Penarol, who now drop to third. Cerro beat Rampla Juniors 3-2 to move second, just a point adrift of Defensor.