Americas' Leagues review
There was tension aplenty across the Americas’ major leagues this weekend, with titles races set to go right to the wire in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. FIFA.com brings you the pick of a nail-biting weekend of action.
Brasileirao: Flu still ahead as top trio triumph
Despite suffering an early scare at Palmeiras on matchday 37 of this year’s championship, Muricy Ramalho’s Fluminense battled back to win 2-1 and stay a point clear in first place with only one round to play. Closest chasers Corinthians beat Vasco da Gama 2-0, while a point further back are Cruzeiro, 2-1 victors over Flamengo.
Big game: In an unusual turn of events, a stunning long-range strike from Palmeiras’ Dinei to open the scoring against leaders Flu was not even applauded by the Verdão faithful. A victory for the home side would have boosted arch-rivals Corinthians’ championship hopes, which meant the visitors’ comeback success suited the fans in the Arena Barueri.
Headline-grabbers: The relegation fears of traditional heavyweights Atletico Mineiro and Flamengo were finally ended this weekend, with the former, O Galo, beating Goias 3-1 to move into 13th. Despite their defeat against Cruzeiro, Fla are also safe on 43 points in 15th because relegation rivals Vitoria and Goianense (both on 41 points) play each other on the final day of the season.
Argentinian Apertura: Estudiantes open the gap
Leaders Estudiantes La Plata took their tally to 36 points from 16 games with a vital win over Independiente, thus moving five clear of second-placed Velez Sarsfield. The latter have a game in hand, however, and can reduce the deficit to two points with victory over Tigre on Tuesday.
Big game: Up against an Independiente side fielding a number of youth-team players due to their involvement in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, Estudiantes still needed an 85th-minute header from Gaston Fernandez to clinch a hard-fought 2-1 away success.
Headline-grabbers: River Plate beat Olimpo 1-0 and could move out of the relegation zone, decided on points average over the last three years, should Huracan lose to Lanus on Monday.
Uruguayan Apertura: Title still in the balance
Two weeks ago Defensor had looked odds-on for the Apertura 2010 crown, but there are now no fewer than five teams still in the running going into the final matchday.
Big game: Trailing pace-setters Defensor by four points ahead of Saturday’s meeting between the two sides, fellow title hopefuls Nacional secured a vital 2-1 away success courtesy of first-half goals from Matias Cabrera and Santiago Garcia. The latter club now have 26 points to the leaders’ 27.
Headline-grabbers: Also on 26 points are Bella Vista, 4-2 victors over Cerro, while Penarol and El Tanque Sisley are just a point further back after 3-2 and 1-0 wins over Central Espanol and Miramar Misiones respectively.
Mexican Apertura: Only two remain
Santos Laguna and Monterrey will go head-to-head in the final of the title-deciding Liguilla after winning their semi-final ties against Club America and Pumas UNAM, respectively. The two finalists also secured berths in the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League in the process, while Santos will host the first leg of the Liguilla decider on 2 December.
Big game: Santos’ 2-1 semi-final first-leg win in America’s Estadio Azteca was a crucial first step towards reaching the final. In the return match at home, Santos led three times in the 3-3 draw that secured their passage, with Cristian Benitez hitting his side’s third after the dismissal of team-mate Felipe Baloy.
Headline-grabbers: Having picked up a 0-0 away draw in the first leg, Monterrey dominated the return match against opponents Pumas. However, it was not until the 88th minute that they were able to breach the Pumas’ defence, with goals from Humberto Suazo and Neri Cardozo two minutes later sealing a 2-0 aggregate success.
Turning to the Paraguayan Clausura, the conclusion of the championship tussle there is equally exciting. Leaders Libertad go into next Sunday’s final matchday just a point clear of closest pursuers Cerro Porteno, after the former’s 3-0 home win against Sol de America and the latter’s 2-1 success away to Guarani. Trailing to Julian Benitez’s 55th-minute opener, Cerro turned the scoreline on its head with goals from Luis Cardozo and Pablo Zeballos in the 79th and 88th minute respectively.
Finally we go to the Chilean Apertura, where leaders Universidad Catolica now have one hand on the trophy after a 3-2 victory at Cobreloa and second-placed Colo Colo’s 2-1 reverse away to O’Higgins. Universidad are three points clear with one round of matches remaining.