Americas Leagues Review
Ronaldinho was the man for Flamengo as they secured the Taca Guanabara title in Brazil, while Olimpo continue to surprise the pundits in Argentina. The Mexican Apertura, meanwhile, is being dominated by a pack of merciless Pumas, who kept up their unbeaten record. Read on as FIFA.com takes a tour of all the hottest weekend club action from around the Americas.
Brazilian State Championships: Ronaldinho sparks Flamengo glory
Ronaldinho finally produced the kind of performance that Flamengo fans were hoping for when he was signed over a month ago. The O Mengão were having trouble breaking down underdogs Boavista when the former Barcelona and AC Milan hero made his presence known; the packed Engenhao Stadium exploded in joy when his sizzling free-kick flew into the bottom corner.
The goal secured Flamengo the Taca Guanabara title, the first leg of the Rio de Janeiro’s state championships. Ronaldinho was on the verge of tears as he lifted the trophy, guaranteeing Flamengo a place in the final. If Ronaldinho and Co manage to win the second leg – the Taca Rio, which starts next week – they will be crowned state champions.
Big game: With rivals Internacional already eliminated, the pressure was on Gremio to avoid an upset against Cruzeiro-RS at the Olimpico. Striker Borges made sure the Tricolor wouldn’t miss the final of the Piratini Cup – the first leg of Rio Grande do Sul’s state championship – with a hat-trick that paved the way for Gremio’s 4-2 triumph, which pits them in the final against Caxias on 9 March.
Headline-grabber: Liedson’s hot start with Corinthians continued on Saturday, his brace in a 4-0 thrashing of Gremio Prudente seeing the former Sporting ace’s goals tally swell to to seven in five matches.
Mexican Apertura: Pumas keep pouncing
Pumas kept up their fine form in the 2011 Apertura with a rout of struggling Tecos. Tigres are second in the overall standings with 17 points thanks to a 3-0 win over Puebla while Morelia are in third place with 15 points after a slim 2-1 win over Atlante.
Big game: Guillermo Vazquez’s Pumas are going all guns blazing in the 2011 title race. Tecos – on only six points from their eight games – were the latest team to feel the Mexico City side’s attacking heat. Javier Cortes Granados grabbed a double in the lopsided affair, as the leaders hardly miss league top scorer Juan Carlos Cacho, out with a thigh injury since the start of the month. Pumas remain the only unbeaten side in the competition and in top overall spot with 18 points from eight games.
Headline-grabbers: Morelia are only three points off the leaders and have a gritty late show to thank for their rarefied position. The 2000 Invierno champions looked down and out after conceding a 45th minute goal at home to Atlante, but a late fight-back sealed a much-needed 2-1 win. Joel Huiqui Andrade struck first with a quarter-hour to go and Miguel Sabah sealed the win five minutes later.
Argentinian Clausura: Olimpo fail to capitalise on Estudiantes’ slip
Estudiantes fell out of top spot at the weekend after losing 1-0 to Banfield. Olimpo were unable to take full advantage of the La Plata side’s slip-up however, as their 3-3 draw with Godoy Cruz means they and River Plate are only one point ahead of chasers Estudiantes, Lanus and Racing, who are all tied in second place.
Big game: River Plate left it late against Independiente in their derby contest on Sunday night. The Buenos Aires giants required a goal in the 88th minute from Mariano Pavone to seal the full three-point haul and see recent improvements continue. The reality of relegation is looking less and less likely for River since the hiring of coach Juan José López, but this latest result will do nothing to ease nerves among the fans of Independiente.
Headline-grabbers: New Boca Juniors boss Julio Falconi made a stir by leaving playmaking idol and fan favourite Juan Riquelme out of the squad when in-form All Boys came to town. Fans and media at La Bombonera - already on edge because of the return of hated former River Plate icon Ariel Ortega (now with All Boys) - were up in arms as Boca lacked a cutting edge and laboured to a goalless draw. The result sees All Boys ahead of Boca in 11th place, tied on points but with a superior goal difference.
Central Espanol took hold of top spot in the Uruguayan Clausura with to a 1-0 win over Miramar on Saturday. Defensor Sporting climbed to within a point of the leaders while Tacuarembo dropped to third after a 3-0 loss to Liverpool, their first defeat of the current campaign. Penarol, one of Uruguay's traditional giants, and Danubio are struggling in 12th and seventh respectively.
Olimpia kept up their all-out assault on the Paraguayan Apertura, a 2-1 derby victory over Cerro Porteno taking their points tally up to a perfect 18, seven better than closest chasers Nacional. Over in the Chilean Apertura, there is a three-way tie at the summit. Universidad de Chile, Universidad Catolica and Union La Calera are all standing tall on 13 points. Of the trio, only Universidad Catolica failed to win at the weekend, drawing 1-1 against Santiago Wanderers.
In the Costa Rican Torneo de Verano, Limonense kept ahead of traditional giants Saprissa in first place in Group A thanks to a 4-1 win at Puntarenas – the second week in a row they scored four goals. Saprissa also won 2-1 at Cartagines for a firm hold of second place, two points back of the side from Limon. San Carlos and Alajuelense met in a top-of-the-table clash in Group B in the late game on Sunday with the men from Alajuela winning out 2-1 to leapfrog their opponents into first place.
Heredia lost control of top spot in Guatemala after losing 1-0 to Xelaju. Mictlan took full advantage in the other Saturday game, beating Marquense to move into pole position with 22 points, two better than both Heredia and Xelaju, who now share second.