Americas Leagues review
The Mexican Clausura play-off line-up was decided this weekend, while Ronaldinho’s Flamengo clinched the Rio de Janeiro state title, Velez Sarsfield maintained their excellent form to stay top in Argentina, and Real Salt Lake ended a miserable week with another defeat. FIFA.com rounds up all those stories and more in its latest review of the action across the Americas.
Argentinian Clausura: Velez Sarsfield stay strong
Fresh from sweeping to a 3-0 victory over Ecuador’s Liga de Quito in the Copa Libertadores, league leaders Velez Sarsfield overpowered Estudiantes 4-0 in La Plata to stay two points clear of the pack. “This team’s going all out to win the league and the Copa Libertadores,” vowed Maxi Moralez, the scorer of a brace against El Pincha.
Big game: Quilmes boosted their hopes of staving off relegation when they chalked up a third straight win thanks to a fine comeback against Banfield. Trailing 3-2 with less than 15 minutes remaining, they equalised through Pablo Osvaldo Vazquez and then secured three priceless points when Martin Cauteruccio struck in the closing seconds.
Headline-grabber: River Plate continued their joint bid to win the title and avoid the drop (determined by points average calculated over three years) when Mariano Pavone scored the only goal of their visit to Racing Avellaneda, which kept them just two points behind front-runners Velez. Matchday 12 comes to a conclusion on Monday with the following games: Olimpo-Tigre, Colon-Lanus and Boca Juniors-Independiente.
Brazilian state championships: Shoot-out Sunday
There were regional clássicos aplenty on Sunday and no fewer than three penalty shoot-outs as state silverware was handed out across the country. Internacional took the second round of the Campeonato Gaucho when they beat old foes Gremio on penalties, which means the two Porto Alegre rivals must now meet again over two legs to decide who is crowned overall state champions. Corinthians downed Palmeiras in a spot-kick decider to tee up a Campeonato Paulista state final against Santos, and unbeaten Flamengo followed up their Taca Guanabara conquest by overcoming Vasco da Gama 3-1 on penalties to take the Taca Rio and become Rio de Janeiro champions for a record 32nd time.
Big game: Though their 0-0 draw with Vasco at the Engenhao might not live long in the memory, it was nevertheless an unforgettable day for Flamengo. Thiago Neves’s calmly taken penalty secured them a shoot-out triumph and their first trophy in over five years, and Ronaldinho’s first silverware since leaving Barcelona. “It’s great to be a champion again,” said the Mengão talisman afterwards, “and to do it in my home country is fantastic. The only thing that compares to this is winning the World Cup.”
Headline-grabber: In the other local derbies taking place up and down the country, Vitoria lost 3-2 at home to Bahia but still progressed to Campeonato Baiano final against Bahia de Feira de Santana, while Sport went down by the same scoreline against Nautico in the Pernambucano semi-final but progressed on aggregate and will now meet Santa Cruz in the decider.
Mexican Clausura: Stage set for play-off drama
The regular season came to a close at the weekend, with Tigres beating Atlas 3-0 to top the league standings on 35 points. Their opponents in the quarter-finals of the title-deciding Liguilla play-offs will be Guadalajara, who finished eighth overall. Pumas finished just behind Tigres on goal difference and will take on seventh-placed Monterrey. Third in the standings were Monarcas Morelia, who now face a tough assignment against America, while Atlante and Cruz Azul square off in the other tie.
Big game: There was plenty at stake when Guadalajara entertained Monterrey on Saturday, with neither side sure of their place in the play-offs. Chivas made a fast start, taking the lead on three minutes, with the reigning champions hitting back through Ricardo Osorio’s fine drive right on half-time and then taking the lead when Jesus Eduardo Zavala scored 18 minutes from time. Marco Fabian’s second goal of the afternoon levelled it up for Guadalajara and set Monterrey nerves jangling, though Walter Ayovi settled them with a dramatic injury-time strike as both sides went through.
Headline-grabber: The following day it was America’s turn to feel the tension when they travelled to Pumas in the knowledge that defeat could well leave them without a play-off place. Second-half goals from Vicente Matias Vuoso and Angel Reyna were enough for Las Águilas, however, as they took second place in Group 2 and denied Pumas first spot overall.
American Major League Soccer: Hangover for Real Salt Lake
Still reeling from their CONCACAF Champions League final defeat to Monterrey, MLS title holders Real Salt Lake suffered their first reverse in 18 league games when they lost 1-0 at Portland Timbers, Kenny Cooper snatching the winner 22 minutes in. Despite losing their 100 per cent record this season, Real lie just three points behind Western Conference leaders Los Angeles Galaxy, with no fewer than four games in hand.
Big game: Though shorn of star names such as midfielder Mauro Rosales, Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid still had the satisfaction of seeing his much-changed side overcome Toronto FC 3-0, with Brad Evans scoring twice and Alvaro Fernandez getting the other. Unbeaten in six, the Sounders are now third in the West, while the Canadians have now gone six games without a win.
Headline-grabber: The Galaxy lost their third game in a row, this time going down at fast-improving FC Dallas on a stormy Sunday in Texas. Fabian Castillo and Landon Donovan had shared goals before the inclement weather caused the game to be suspended with just a few minutes remaining. After a delay of more than an hour, the players came back out, with Brek Shea scoring two minutes from time to take the Texans up to fifth in the West.
In Chile, Diego Rivarola’s last-minute goal completed a dramatic late fightback for Universidad de Chile as they beat Colo-Colo 2-1. However, it was not enough for them to close the gap on leaders Universidad Catolica, who needed an 89th-minute strike themselves to down Universidad de Concepcion by the same scoreline and stay seven points clear.
Over in Paraguay a stunning goal by Juan Manuel Iturbe set Cerro Porteno on the way to a 2-0 win over Asuncion rivals and league leaders Olimpia. Though Cerro are still 16 points adrift in seventh, albeit with two games in hand, they did have the added satisfaction of seeing Nacional Asuncion pull level with Olimpia at the top of the table on 36 points.