World Leagues review
FIFA.com brings you its weekly roundup of league action from outside Europe, including news of a costly defeat for the Argentinian leaders, more success for Mexico's surprise packages and a nail-biting finale in the United Arabic Emirates.
Argentinian Clausura: Lanus take control
Despite taking the lead via a Jonathan Cristaldo goal, Velez Sarsfield ended up on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline against Gimnasia La Plata to record their first defeat of the campaign. The end of Velez's 13-match unbeaten run also enabled Lanus, who had moved into first place after a 2-1 comeback win at Rosario Central on Friday, to stay a point ahead at the top.
Big game: Boosted by the return of creator-in-chief Juan Roman Riquelme following a foot injury, Boca Juniors battled back from a goal down to beat Arsenal 2-1 and end a seven-game winless streak. Their opponents have now gone ten matches without tasting victory.
Headline-grabber: Huracan dashed River Plate's hopes of a late title surge with a 4-0 success, thus heaping misery on a Los Millonarios side still reeling from their early exit from the Copa Libertadores. Angel Cappa's Huracan, who are now just two points behind leaders Lanus, are chasing only their second ever league title in the professional era - 36 years on from their last championship success.
Brasileirao: Inter and Vitoria set the pace
Internacional of Porto Alegre, 2-0 victors over Palmeiras, and Bahia outfit Vitoria, who beat Sport Recife courtesy of Neto Baiano's solitary strike, are leading from the front in Brazil as the only two teams with 100 per cent records after two rounds.
Big game: Botafogo defenders worked hard to keep Corinthians' in-form front-man Ronaldo in check in the sides' 0-0 draw, a result which leaves both teams still looking for their first win. Though a game not lacking in quality or opportunities, inspired performances from respective keepers Renan and Felipe and several near-misses ensured the match ended scoreless.
Headline-grabber: Fluminense, Sao Paulo, Flamengo and Santos all drew against Barueri, Atletico PR, Avai and Goias respectively, with five of the matchday's ten encounters ending level.
Mexican Liguilla: Semi-finalists confirmed
The two semi-finals of the Mexican end-of-season title play-offs (Liguilla) will be Pachuca-Indios and UNAM Pumas-Puebla, with Pachuca the last of the quartet to seal their place after Sunday's 2-0 win over Jaguares. Puebla edged out Monterrey 5-3 on aggregate, while Pumas ended Tecos' hopes of glory.
Big game: Despite going into the second leg 2-0 down overall against Tecos, Los Felinos produced a stunning second-half display to turn the scoreline on its head and book a last-four berth. A goal from Dante Lopez immediately after the interval was followed by strikes by Francisco Palencia and David Toledo on 85 and 90 minutes respectively.
Headline-grabber: The Indios from Ciudad Juarez are this year's surprise packages, having followed up their successful escape from relegation danger by securing a Liguilla berth. And the frontier side are not finished yet, having just knocked out regular-season champions Toluca 1-0 on aggregate to book a semi-final berth.
Japanese J.League: Nakamura makes a splash
Over in Japan, Albirex Niigata moved up to third thanks to a 2-0 win over Vissel Kobe, while leaders Kashima Antlers beat Kashiwa Reysol away to record their fourth consecutive win and stay two points clear of Urawa Red Diamonds. The Reds, who have also played a game more, were held to a draw by Gamba Osaka.
Big game: Hokuto Nakamura could not have wished for a better debut when scoring the winner in FC Tokyo's victory over Yokohama F Marinos, having come on as a 55th-minute substitute for the injured Yohei Kajiyama. Hiroshi Jofuko, coach of the capital club, later said his team "had been waiting for" the 23-year-old, absent through injury since signing earlier this year from Avispa Fukuoka.
Headline-grabber: Another substitute, Toshihiro Matsushita, played a key role in Albirex Niigata's win this weekend. Having first supplied the pass for Mitsuru Chiyotanda's headed opener on 79 minutes, Matsushita then fired home from the edge of the box to seal the victory with three minutes remaining.
Al Ahli edged closer to claiming the United Arab Emirates league title and their involvement at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2009 after a 3-1 win over Dhafra in the penultimate matchday of the season. The result leaves Al Ahli a point clear of second-placed Al Jazira, who beat Al Shabab 4-1, with Ahli due to face Shabab and Jazira to take on Ajman on the final day.
Over in the Sudanese Premier League, leaders Al Hilal underlined their title credentials with a 5-0 win at Al Hilal Kadougli. Closest challengers Al Merreikh stuck to their task impressively, however, by powering to a 6-1 win over the division's bottom side Al Shimali, who have just two points from 12 games so far.
In Chile, Union Espanola clinched victory in the regular phase of the Chilean Apertura, and will now contest the title play-offs with Universidad de Chile, Everton, Santiago Morning, Universidad Catolica, Iquique, Audax Italiano and Palestino. Reigning champions Colo Colo said goodbye to their chances of retaining their crown after crashing to defeat against Palestino.
And finally to Venezuela, where Caracas FC were crowned Clausura 2009 champions after a 3-1 win over Zamora and Deportivo Tachira's 3-3 draw with Estudiantes de Merida. Next Sunday in the Venezuelan capital's Estadio Olimpico, Caracas are set to go head-to-head with Apertura 2008 winners Deportivo Italia for the 2008/09 national title.