World Leagues review
As the dust settled on an action-packed weekend of football, the pre-matchday pacesetters in Brazil, Argentina and the USA were still sitting pretty. With a new season kicking off in Morocco, and big games in Mexico, Japan and Korea Republic, FIFA.com reflects on the latest developments outside Europe.
Brasileirao: Corinthians close on Fluminense
Fluminense remain in first place, despite dropping two points in a 2-2 draw with Rio de Janeiro rivals Vasco. Taking centre stage in front of 80,000 spectators at the Maracana were two members of Porto’s 2003/04 UEFA Champions League-winning squad: Carlos Alberto, arguably the man of the match, for the Sao Januario outfit and Flu debutant Deco.
Big game: Corinthians closed to within two points of Fluminense thanks to a comprehensive 3-0 success over arch-rivals Sao Paulo. Adilson Batista’s charges dominated from start to finish, with O Tricolor Paulista’s veteran keeper Rogerio Ceni forced into action after just 53 seconds and O Timão’s Elias, scorer of a brace, enjoying an inspired game. The defeat left the losing side in serious danger of being dragged into a relegation dogfight.
Headline-grabber: Flamengo have now failed to win in 11 matches at the Arena da Baixada since the stadium's inception in 1999. Sunday’s 1-0 reverse by Atletico Paranaense was the latest in this inglorious run of nine defeats and two draws.
Argentinian Apertura: River gathering momentum
River Plate picked up their third consecutive win, a feat they had not achieved for three years, to remain level at the top alongside Velez Sarsfield. Los Millonarios overcame Independiente 3-2 to further improve their historical head-to-head record against their cross-city rivals, while River’s supporters feel the victory is another step towards winning the title and banishing the spectre of relegation, which is decided by teams’ points average over the previous three years. Star of the show in a packed Estadio Monumental was youngster Rogelio Funes Mori, who found the net twice, with the other goal scored by defender Paulo Ferrari.
Big game: Newly-promoted All Boys added to Boca Juniors’ woes with a 2-0 home success, which leaves Los Xeneizes yet to register a victory after three matchdays. Coach Claudio Borghi’s charges, who are anxiously awaiting the return of talismanic playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme from injury, are already eight points off the pace.
Headline-grabber: Experienced coach Ramon Diaz, a title winner with both River Plate and current club San Lorenzo, once again proved to be Racing Club's nemesis. After Saturday’s 2-1 away win over La Academia, sides coached by Diaz have now lost just once against Racing in 20 encounters.
Mexican Apertura: Cruz Azul go joint top
Cruz Azul came from behind to record a 3-2 win at Jaguares in torrential rain at the Estadio Victor Manuel Reyna. The three points, secured thanks to a hat-trick from Argentinian forward Christian Gimenez, moved Los Cementeros level on points with Santos Laguna in the overall standings.
Big game: Pumas thumped Puebla 4-1 at home to stride into fifth spot overall, with Paraguayan forward Dante Lopez and Juan Carlos Cacho helping themselves to two goals apiece.
Headline-grabber: An injury-time strike from Pachuca’s Daniel Arreola denied Monterrey the opportunity to go clear at the top of the overall standings. Los Rayados were held 2-2 and thus remain a point behind pacesetters Santos Laguna and Cruz Azul.
Major League Soccer: No change at the top
Columbus Crew continued to impose themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 victory over Colorado Rapids. A penalty from Guillermo Barros Schelotto got the ball rolling after just five minutes and was the inspirational Argentinian’s third successful spot-kick from four attempts this campaign.
Big game: Without a win since 22 May, Houston Dynamo were grateful to veteran USA striker and club captain Brian Ching, who grabbed his first-ever hat-trick in their colours to drive his side to a 4-3 home win over Chicago Fire at the Robertson Stadium.
Headline-grabber: Mexico international Rafael Marquez grabbed his first MLS goal when opening the scoring for New York Red Bulls in their 4-1 away success over Toronto FC. Former Aston Villa and Colombia striker Juan Pablo Angel was also on the score-sheet via the penalty spot in Toronto’s first defeat at the BMO Field in 2010.
Japanese J.League leaders Nagoya Grampus bounced back from a 4-0 defeat at Kawasaki Frontale with a 3-1 victory over Gamba Osaka. The win moved Nagoya on to 41 points, five clear of a trio of chasers in Cerezo Osaka, Kashima Antlers and Shimizu S-Pulse. Cerezo beat Kashima 1-0, while Shimizu went down 2-1 against Jubilo Iwata.
In the Korean K-League, Gyeongnam remain a point clear at the top despite being held 1-1 at home by Chunnam Dragons. Their closest chasers are Jeju United and Jeonbuk Motors, 1-0 and 3-2 victors over Busan I’Park and Daejeon Citizen respectively, while FC Seoul became the country’s first team to win 11 consecutive home games after a 2-1 reverse of Gangwon.
The Moroccan Botola got underway at the weekend with four encounters, including a 1-0 opening win for reigning champions WAC Casablanca at MA Tetouan. FAR Rabat won 3-0 away against Chabab Kasba Tadla, JS Massira sank KAC de Kenitra 1-0 and MAS Fez shared a 1-1 draw with KAC Marrakesh.