World Leagues review
It was a big weekend in Brazil being the sharp end of the respective state championships while there was action aplenty at the league summit elsewhere across the globe. The pace-setters remained firm in USA but there is much jostling for positions at the top in Japan and China. Meanwhile the big game of the year in Egypt took place, as FIFA.com also rounds up the latest highlights from five continents.
Brazilian state championships: Botafogo end drought
Botafogo secured Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state title by defeating rivals Flamengo 2-1 in the final of the Rio Cup with goals by Argentina striker German Herrera and Uruguay forward Sebastian Abreu. Botafogo had already won the Guanabara Cup, the first stage of the Rio competition, and automatically clinched the overall title by winning the Rio Cup, the second stage. Joel Santana’s team winning its first state title for four years ended a run of three consecutive runners-up finishes to Fla in the Rio championship and becoming the first club to do the double since Vasco da Gama in 1998. In the Sao Paulo state tournament, Neymar scored twice to help Santos beat Sao Paulo 3-0 and advance to the final.
Big game: In the Rio Grande do Sul state championship, Argentine midfielder Andres D'Alessandro scored a late goal to give Internacional a 3-2 win over Pelotas and the title in the competition's second stage. Inter, led by Uruguay coach Jorge Fossati, will now play in the state final against rival Gremio, the first stage's winner.
Headline grabber: Enigmatic 18-year-old Neymar continued his impressive form with a brace to help his Santos side into the final against Santo Andre. Neymar opened the scoring from close range in the 59th minute and then added a penalty seven minutes from time.
Major League Soccer: Buddle and LA Galaxy continue bright start
Los Angeles Galaxy again rode the form of young forward Edson Buddle to a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake, the team that beat them for the MLS Cup last season. Buddle scored both goals in the win and has now tallied seven goals in just four matches, to lead the Galaxy to the league’s only perfect record. On the opposite coast, DC United are in crisis mode after losing to Chicago 2-0 to open the season with four defeats.
Big game: Kansas City gave up their first goal of the new season slumping to their first defeat in the process, as Seattle substitute Michael Fucito scored an injury-time winner against the Wizards. After 92 minutes of dour football and no goals, the former Harvard University player, who only just entered the fray, nipped in behind the defence from a quick throw-in to the delight of the 36,000 watching supporters.
Headline grabber: New York Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel had an eventful match in the 2-1 come-from-behind win against Dallas. The former River Plate and Aston Villa man had a goal ruled out for offside, saw his penalty saved and scored both goals - including a last-minute winner - as New York stayed atop the Eastern standings with three wins from four matches.
Japanese J.League: Reds run riot
A 1-1 draw away to Gamba Osaka saw Shimizu S-Pulse concede their league lead to Urawa Red Diamonds, who cantered to a 3-0 home win over Kawasaki Frontale. Despite their 1-1 draw against Albirex Niigata, Nagoya Grampus moved up to third place while defending champions Kashima Antlers edged into fifth following their goalless encounter against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Big game: Urawa entertained Kawasaki but the expected even contest turned out to be a lopsided affair with the hosts running out 3-0 winners. Two quick goals from Hajime Hosogai and Tatsuya Tanaka put Urawa into 2-0 lead after eight minutes before Satoshi Horinouchi sealed a comfortable win.
Headline grabber: Cerezo Osaka edged out Shonan Bellmare 2-1 at home but the hosts were indebted to their ace striker Shinji Kagawa, who was twice on target including scoring the winner in added time.
Chinese Super League: Shenzhen set the pace
Defending champions Beijing Guoan climbed to second place courtesy of their solitary-goal home win over Shaanxi Chanba while two-time winners Shanghai Shenhua also recorded their third win by defeating hosts Tianjin Teda. However, it was last season's strugglers Shenzhen Ruby that stole the show as they stunned Changchun Yatai 2-1 to top the 16-team standings.
Big game: The much-hyped Dalian Haichang versus Shandong Luneng ended in a 2-2 draw with the latter coming from two goals down for an unlikely away point. James Chamanga and Ahn Jung-Hwan struck in each half to give Dalian a 2-0 lead but Han Peng pulled one back with ten minutes remaining before then heading home an equaliser deep into the injury time.
Headline grabber: After striking twice to give Shenzhen a famous win against Beijing a fortnight ago, Vyacheslav Hleb was again the hero as he first set up Li Fei to equalise before scoring the winner himself against Changchun.
In the Egyptian League, the highlight of the domestic calendar ended in a six-goal thriller as Al Ahly and Zamalek did battle. The match was largely dominated by Zamalek, however the second placed team failed to win despite taking the lead three times only for the visitors to hit back on each occasion. With a nine-point difference remaining unchanged, Ahly require just one point from their remaining four matches to claim the title.
FC Seoul pipped Ulsan Hyundai Horangi 3-0 in the top-of-the-table contest to claim the lead in the Korea Republic K-League. Ulsan's defeat also benefits Gyeongnam FC, who move into second courtesy of their 2-1 win away at Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. Incheon United, meanwhile, produced the biggest surprise by thrashing reigning Asian champions Pohang Steelers 4-0, while heavyweights Suwon Bluewings fell to Jeju United 2-1.
In the Tahitian Division One AS Tefana took a six-point lead after a 1-0 win at AS Vaiete, while at the same time nearest challengers AS Pirae suffered a surprise defeat by the same scoreline against AS Tamarii Faa'a.