Champions to the fore
Brisbane Roar and Auckland City displayed the resolve of champions over the weekend as they continued their push to retain their respective titles. With many leagues across Asia and Oceania having the weekend off due to midweek international fixtures, FIFA.com also reviews the latest in Iraq, plus an update from both Yemen and Macau.
Australian A-League: Brisbane roar towards summit
Brisbane Roar continued their pursuit of leaders Central Coast Mariners, closing the margin at the top to three points with four rounds remaining. The Roar cruised past Perth Glory 3-0, while the Mariners lost for the third time in their last five outings, having won just once in that period. Graham Arnold’s Mariners were this time defeated at Melbourne Heart as highly rated young striker Eli Babalj sunk last year’s runners-up with the only goal of the game.
Big game: Competition elite Melbourne Victory are slowly losing their grip on a finals berth after being held 1-1 at cellar-dwellers Gold Coast United. The rich vein of form from Carlos Hernandez continued but the Costa Rican’s goal was unable to lift the Victory past the injury-riddled United.
Headline-grabber: Brisbane Roar attacker Henrique experienced the highs and lows of football within the space of an hour in Perth. The Brazilian, who has been a key component in the Roar’s push to retain their title, scored a classy first-half goal before receiving his marching orders midway through the second period.
New Zealand Football Championship: More glory for Auckland
Auckland City have sealed the premiership after guaranteeing top spot in the league standings, with the achievement also confirming their participation in next season’s OFC O-League. The Aucklanders will now seek to win the championship in next month’s four-team finals series. Auckland, who are seeking to become the first team to go through the season undefeated, had to recover from going a goal down inside the first minute before overcoming Hawke’s Bay United. The reigning Oceania champions and 2011 FIFA Club World Cup participants will have to make do without Dave Mulligan in the short term after the All Whites midfielder was sent off, having also got his name on the scoresheet.
Big game: Waitakere United came from behind to overpower fellow finals contenders Team Wellington 3-1 thanks to a Chris Bale double. Last season’s champions now have a four-point buffer and a firm grip on third, while their beaten rivals are trying to stave off the challenge of Hawke’s Bay for the last play-off berth.
Headline-grabber: Canterbury United’s Aaron Clapham scored a stunning free-kick in his side’s 3-0 win over Otago United. The midfielder has moved to second on the top goalscorers list, just three behind team-mate George Slefendorfas.
In Iraq, a 2-1 home victory over Al Shurta moved five-time winners Al Talaba level with Arbil at the summit, with the latter maintaining their grip on top spot thanks to a superior goal difference. Hot on the heels of the top duo are Al Quwa Al Jawiya, who sit a point adrift after seeing off Minaa by an identical scoreline, while 2009 winners Duhok registered a solitary-goal victory at Baghdad SC to remain fourth.
The much-anticipated derby in Yemen between ten-time winners Al Ahli Sanaa and Al Sha'ab Ibb ended in favour of the latter, who recorded a 3-1 home victory to move fourth. Sharing top place level on 15 points are Shula Aden and Al Sha'ab Sanaa, both of whom obtained maximum points against Taliat Taiz (2-0) and Al Wahda Aden (1-0) respectively. At the other end of the table, Al Tilal came up with their first victory of the campaign, defeating Al Ahli Taizz 2-0 at home. Despite the win, the fallen giants - who have claimed the domestic title on eight occasions - are still languishing third from bottom with just eight points.
In Macau, Windsor Arch Ka I continued their early season form as they seek a third consecutive title. Their latest outing saw them record a comfortable 3-0 home win over Lam Leng to maintain a six-point lead over Benfica, who moved into second with a 2-0 triumph against Kuan Tai. Heavyweights Lam Pak, who have lifted the trophy a record nine times, remain fifth after being forced to share the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Monte Carlo.