World Leagues review
FIFA.com reviews the pick of the action outside Europe on a weekend that saw new leaders emerge in Brazil and Argentina, the remaining play-off berths decided in Mexico and the identities of the MLS Cup finalists revealed in the USA.
Brasileirao: A change at the top
Fluminense could only manage a draw at home to relegation-threatened Goias, a slip-up that saw them surrender top spot with only three matchdays remaining. Taking full advantage were new leaders Corinthians who, courtesy of a 1-0 over Cruzeiro, are now favourites to claim the title.
High stakes: Corinthians’s narrow victory, secured by a Ronaldo penalty five minutes from time, was all the more significant with it coming against direct title rivals Cruzeiro. The reverse dealt a telling blow to A Raposa’s title chances and now leaves them depending on results elsewhere.
Headline-grabber: Matchday 35 also signalled the end of Gremio Prudente’s struggle to remain in the top flight and saw Flamengo slip ever closer to the relegation berths. A 4-1 defeat at the hands of Atletico Mineiro now has the 2009 champions hovering just three points above the drop zone.
Japanese J.League: Front-runner closing in on title
Leaders Nagoya Grampus Eight continued their quest for a maiden league championship with a 2-1 win over Omiya Ardija that keeps them eight points ahead of nearest rivals Kashima Antlers. Gamba Osaka, meanwhile, remain third and in line for a AFC Champions League spot thanks to their 2-0 win at home to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
High stakes: Kashima Antlers kept their slim title hopes alive with a 2-1 home triumph over Kawasaki Frontale, although anything less than a win for them next week, coupled with three points for Grampus, would see the trophy heading the leaders’ way.
Headline-grabber: With just four games remaining, Nagoya’s win over Omiya moved them to within touching distance of the title. Nearest pursuers Kashima and Gamba, eight and ten points back respectively, are the only teams still with a mathematical chance of catching them.
Mexican Apertura: Last eight standing
After the final game of the regular season this weekend, Cruz Azul found themselves top of the overall standings and among the eight teams through to the season-ending play-offs. Joining them their will be Monterrey, Santos Laguna, Club America, San Luis, Chiapas, Pachuca and UNAM Pumas – the latter thanks to an impressive away win against the-already qualified Águilas in the Mexico City derby.
High stakes: Pumas grabbed the last available play-off spot with their first win in 12 attempts on the road. The triumph was all the sweeter coming as it did against arch-rivals America, who had previously been unbeaten at their ground this season. The only goal of the game came on 11 minutes from the Paraguayan Diego Veron.
Headline-grabber: Ecuador and Santos Laguna striker Christian Benitez lived up to his pre-season billing by topping the scorer’s charts with 14 goals. Some way back in second was Chile and Monterrey marksman Humberto Suazo on ten.
Argentinian Apertura: Tight at the top
Estudiantes de La Plata’s shock 2-1 reverse away to Tigre on Saturday allowed Velez Sarsfield to join them at the summit with just five matchdays remaining. Ricardo Alvarez grabbed the only goal of the game for Velez at home to Lanus, although the co-leaders should have won by considerably more. Estudiantes’s defeat, which ended a seven-game unbeaten run for Juan Sebastian Veron and Co, was all the harder to stomach given that their opponents had Roman Martinez sent off just after the break.
High stakes: The matchday’s final fixture will be Tuesday’s súperclásico between eternal foes River Plate and Boca Juniors. The showdown may lack some of the sparkle of past meetings, given the teams’ disappointing league positions – Los Millonarios are currently 11th and their rivals two places below them. However, adding spice to the occasion will be the debut on the River bench of Juan Jose Lopez, who ran out for both the Buenos Aires behemoths during his playing days.
Headline-grabber: San Lorenzo succumbed to their third successive defeat in losing 1-0 to Argentinos Juniors, while Quilmes finally registered their first win of the season at the expense of Godoy Cruz (2-1). Independiente, for their part, had to make do with a point at home to Olimpo, having opted to rest a slew of first-choice players ahead of the first leg of their Copa Sudamericana semi-final away to Liga de Quito on Thursday.
In the USA the weekend’s MLS conference deciders provided the identities of the 2010 MSL Cup finalists, who will battle it out for the coveted title on 21 November in Toronto, Canada. The teams in question are Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas, neither of which have won the title before. The former booked their spot with a 1-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes in the Eastern Conference final, while the latter upset the odds with a 3-0 rout of favourites LA Galaxy in the Western section. Grabbing the all-important goals for the Texan side were the Colombian David Ferreira, George John and the Honduran Marvin Chavez.
In South Africa’s ABSA Premiership, Kaizer Chiefs took the honours in the Soweto derby with a 3-1 victory over Orlando Pirates, while pacesetters Mamelodi Sundowns had their lead at the top cut to a single point after losing away to Bidvest Wits University. Also unable to add to their tally this weekend were Ajax Cape Town, who went down 2-1 away to Free State Stars and slip to fifth.
Finally to Australia’s A-League, where front-runners Brisbane Roar moved four points clear with a 2-1 away win over Melbourne Heart. Nearest challengers Adelaide United are now four points adrift after a 3-1 reverse at the home of Newcastle Jets. Central Coast Mariners, 3-0 winners at Wellington Phoenix, remain in third.