World Leagues review
The pacesetters made no mistake in Brazil and Mexico this weekend, but the leadership did change hands in Japan and Korea Republic. With opening-round matches in Argentina and Australia, and the race for the play-offs continuing in the USA, FIFA.com reflects on the latest developments.
Argentinian Apertura: Giants make different starts
Estudiantes and River Plate both snatched last-gasp 1-0 wins as the new season got underway. A penalty from Los Pincharratas veteran Juan Sebastian Veron saw off Newell’s Old Boys, while a classic piece of Ariel Ortega invention enabled teenage striker Rogelio Funes Mori to nod home and sink Tigre.
Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo drew away to Godoy Cruz and Gimnasia respectively, while Clausura holders Argentinos Juniors lost 2-1 at home to Huracan.
Big game: Santiago Silva’s powerful first-half header settled an entertaining game between title aspirants Velez Sarsfield and Independiente in the former’s favour.
Headline-grabber: Juan Morales popped up at the back post to stab home an 89th-minute equaliser on his debut for newly-promoted Quilmes against his former employers Colon.
Brasileirao: Top two pull away
Goals from Mariano and Emerson inside the first 20 minutes, and some admirable saves from Fernando Henrique thereafter, helped ten-man leaders Fluminense win 2-1 at Gremio, who duly sacked coach Silas. Corinthians remained one point behind Muricy Ramalho’s side with a deserved 1-0 defeat of Flamengo, a delightful feint and finish from Elias separating Brazil’s two best-supported teams.
Ceara and Cruzeiro, fourth and fifth going into Round 13, will be disappointed with goalless draws at home to rock-bottom Atletico Goianense and Gremio Prudente respectively, though a point was enough for O Vozão to usurp the inactive Internacional from third.
Big game: Goias struck a late equaliser to deny Palmeiras a first win since the return of Luiz Felipe Scolari in a battle of out-of-sorts sides.
Headline-grabber: Guarani attacker Mazola scored one, set up another and tormented Avai throughout a 4-1 rout that ended a sequence of five winless matches and pushed O Bugre up to ninth.
Mexican Apertura: Santos and Monarcas shine
Santos Laguna maintained their 100 per cent start to the campaign with a rousing 3-0 win at Pachuca in Round 3, Christian Benitez headlining the fixture with a brace that took his tally to five goals in three games since his return from a loan spell at Birmingham City. Monterrey are just two points adrift of Santos in Group 1 following a 2-1 success away to Atlante.
Puebla assumed control of Group 3 thanks to a 3-1 victory at Tecos, while Pumas and Cruz Azul are a point shy of the new section leaders after the former beat the latter 2-0.
Big game: A Dario Gandin volley from outside the box was enough for Necaxa to down troubled Atlas on their travels and put their first victory on the board.
Headline-grabber: Miguel Sabah’s clinically-taken hat-trick propelled Monarcas to a 6-0 thrashing of Queretaro that took them on to maximum points from two outings.
Major League Soccer: TFC, Rapids improve play-off chances
Toronto FC climbed inside the play-off qualification places with a 2-1 reverse of Chivas USA, Nana Attakora-Gyan and Chad Barrett on target for the Canadians. Defeat would have dropped Colorado Rapids out of the overall top eight, but an own goal from San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch secured Gary Smith’s side a first win in eight attempts.
Inspired by a Jeff Cunningham double, FC Dallas consolidated their place in the play-off zone with a 3-1 defeat of ten-man Philadelphia Union. Neither Chicago Fire or New York Red Bulls were able to produce a goal despite the collective talent of Thierry Henry, Juan Pablo Angel, Freddie Ljungberg, Nery Castillo and Rafa Marquez – the latter two making their MLS debuts.
Big game: A 1-1 draw left Kansas City Wizards six points outside the play-off berths and Real Salt Lake five behind Western Conference pacesetters Los Angeles Galaxy.
Headline-grabber: Defender Pat Phelan nodded home his maiden MLS goal at the age of 25 to bank New England Revolution a 1-0 victory over DC United that threw them a play-off lifeline.
K-League: Trio tied at the top
A solitary Eninho goal proved enough for Jeonbuk Motors to overcome and overtake FC Seoul, the leaders going into Round 15, and the reigning champions were joined by two other teams on points at the summit. Jeju United overwhelmed Gwangju Sangmu 4-0 to assume pole position on goal difference, while Yoon Bit-Garam’s winner earned Gyeongnam a 2-1 success at Busan I’Park that moved them into third.
Pohang Steelers, who finished third in December’s FIFA Club World Cup, beat Seongnam 2-0 for their first win in 13 matches – one which thrust them up three places to tenth and dropped their victims to sixth.
Big game: Gangwon were just nine minutes away from their third victory of the season, which would have lifted them level on points with second-bottom Daegu, but Jose Ortigoza’s equaliser sent Ulsan Horangi up to fifth, three points off the pace.
Headline-grabbers: An industrious, inspirational performance from Shin Young-Rok – and two goals from Baek Ji-Hoon – helped Suwon Bluewings inflict a third straight 3-2 defeat on Incheon United and take the visitors to ten points from their last four games.
Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory shared six goals in their pulsating A-League curtain-raiser. The Sky Blues held a two-goal cushion before a spirited fightback had the Victory ahead with five minutes remaining, but Shannon Cole’s excellent free-kick ensured the defending champions a share of the spoils against the side they beat on penalties in last season’s Grand Final.
Gold Coast United goalkeeper Glen Moss and his Brisbane Roar counterpart Michael Theoklitos proved impregnable as the opening round’s concluding contest ended goalless, leaving Central Coast Mariners as the only team on three points.
Shimizu S-Pulse replaced Kashima Antlers as J.League leaders by edging the reigning and record seven-time kings 2-1, a scrappy Takuma Edamura goal settling the contest. Meantime a last-gasp Marcus Tulio Tanaka header snatched Nagoya Grampus a 1-0 win at FC Tokyo that moved them into second.