Derby day in Brazil, Cunningham makes history
FIFA.com brings you all the action from a packed weekend league schedule in the Americas, which featured a cluster of Brazilian clássicos that underlined the close-fought nature of that country’s title race. Just as keenly contested are the natinonal championships in Argentina and Mexico, while Stateside it was the turn of a veteran goal-getter to take centre stage.
USA: Cunningham into the record books
Having not found the net since 6 July, Columbus Crew striker Jeff Cunningham shook off a knee problem to strike his 134th Major League Soccer goal and become the league’s highest scorer of all time. The veteran front-runner, who has played in the MLS since 1998, overtook Jaime Moreno’s previous record when beating Seattle Sounders’ keeper Kasey Keller from the penalty spot – though he could not prevent his side going down to a 6-2 reverse.
“I need the lads to sign this. This ball will be part of my life for a long time,” said the 35-year-old, who began his MLS career with a six-year spell at Crew and only returned in February this year, after being handed the matchball. Sounders’ emphatic triumph took them into second spot in the Western Conference, just three points behind LA Galaxy, whose game was postponed due to Hurricane Irene.
Argentina: Fast start for minnows
The Apertura 2011 standings have an intriguing look about them, with newly promoted Atletico Rafaela in first place after their third win in four games. The three points from their impressive 3-1 home victory over Olimpo keeps the humble Santa Fe outfit ahead of big names such as Boca Juniors, Racing Club and Lanus.
Boca, for their part, were involved in one of the matchday’s two derby encounters, which ended 1-1 with San Lorenzo. The round’s second clásico was also in Santa Fe and involved another promoted club, Union, who sank arch-rivals Colon in a highly significant 2-0 success. Not only was it Union’s first derby win since 1999, the victory also knocked Colon off top spot in the Apertura. Though it is still early days, after four rounds of games there are still only two points separating the first- and seventh-placed teams.
Brazil: clássicos abound
In the final matchday of the first half of the Brazilian national championship, no fewer than eight of the ten matches played were regional clássicos spanning six states. In Minas Gerais, Cruzeiro won 2-1 at Atletico Mineiro; honours were even at 1-1 in Parana between Coritiba and Atletico Paranaense; Gremio sank arch-rivals Internacional 2-1 at home in Rio Grande do Sul; over in Rio de Janeiro Flamengo were held 0-0 by Vasco da Gama and champions Fluminense were beaten 2-1 at home by Botafogo. Finally fans in Santa Catarina state witnessed Avai’s 3-2 success at Figueirense, while in Sao Paulo state Palmeiras downed Corinthians 2-1 and Santos drew 1-1 with Sao Paulo.
These results lend an even greater level of balance to the overall standings after 19 matchdays, with only five points now separating leaders Corinthians from their weekend conquerors Palmeiras in sixth. Indeed, prior to victory over O Timão, Palmeiras boss Luiz Felipe Scolari had tagged the game as “a must-win” affair for his charges’ title hopes. The table’s curious geographical bent remains in place, with the top six berths all held by Carioca or Paulista outfits.
Mexico: Cruz Azul climb into first
After previous leaders Guadalajara lost 2-0 at San Luis on Saturday, Cruz Azul took full advantage to move into first spot in the overall standings by beating Clausura 2011 champions Pumas UNAM 2-1 in a very open game. Yet Guadalajara’s young squad will not be disheartened, given Chivas have a match in hand on their rivals and remain a single point behind Cruz Azul. After seven matchdays of the Apertura 2011, there are just four points separating the top seven sides.
Universidad de Chile continued their perfect start to Chile’s Clausura 2011, when recording their fifth successive victory in a 2-0 success against Universidad de Concepcion. They now enjoy a four-point lead over rivals Universidad Catolica, who slipped up 2-0 away to Santiago Wanderers.
In Peru, meanwhile, it is Alianza Lima who lead the way by four points from closest chasers Juan Aurich. Back after a season in Turkish football, Colombian Jhonnier Montano is playing a influential role for the table-toppers and scored his side’s third in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Inti Gas.