Boca go clear, Botafogo assume pole
While Boca Juniors were staying out front in Argentina, fellow Copa Libertadores semi-finalists Corinthians and Santos were tripping up in Brazil, allowing Botafogo to take an early championship lead. Elsewhere the champagne corks were popping for Defensor as they sealed the Uruguayan Clausura, and there was no shortage of late drama in the big games in Major League Soccer. FIFA.com has the details on all those stories in its latest Americas round-up.
Argentina: Boca break free, Tigre up against it
Four days after checking into the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores, Apertura leaders Boca Juniors kept up their fine form with a 3-0 defeat of Godoy Cruz, a game in which they fielded six-first teamers. Juan Manuel Insaurralda, Dario Cvitanich and Pablo Mouche were the men on target for the reigning champions as they moved three points clear at the top.
Of the three teams behind them at the start of the weekend only Tigre managed to escape defeat. El Matador drew 1-1 with Atletico Rafaela to stay second, though it did little to help them in their fight against relegation as they slipped into the drop zone once more. That was because fellow strugglers San Lorenzo came from 2-0 down to beat Newell’s Old Boys 3-2, dealing a near-fatal blow to the Rosario side’s title hopes. Another side to ease their relegation worries were San Martin, who came from a goal down to beat Olimpo 3-2, a result that condemned the vanquished Aurinegros to the second division after two seasons in the top flight.
Brazil: Early lead for Botafogo
While several sides have been devoting their undivided attention to the Brazilian Cup or the Libertadores and others are trying to put painful exits behind them, Botafogo have hit the ground running in the Brasileirão, taking to the top with six points from their opening two games. A goal down after just 60 seconds on their visit to Coritiba, O Fogão hit back to win 3-2 and take charge at the top of the table, ahead of Vasco da Gama and Atletico-MG on goal difference.
Keeping one eye on their forthcoming Libertadores meeting, Corinthians and Santos rested key players and dropped points as a result. While O Timão were losing 1-0 to third-placed O Galo, O Peixe were being held to a goalless draw by Sport. Vasco recovered from their Libertadores exit at the hands of Corinthians by beating Portuguesa 1-0, Alecsandro scoring the only goal with a sumptuous bicycle kick. Fluminense, the other Brazilian side to go out of Latin America’s premier club competition last week, drew 2-2 with Figueirense. On Saturday, meanwhile, Flamengo threw away a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 with Internacional at the Engenhao, the Fla fans expressing their displeasure by booing Ronaldinho.
Major League Soccer: Better late than never
A stoppage-time goal from seasoned defender Nat Borchers gave Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake a thrilling 3-2 home win over FC Dallas, all the goals coming after the interval. Alvaro Saborio twice gave the hosts the lead, only for Matt Hedges and Blas Perez to level it up. Borchers’ dramatic late strike settled the issue, however, and took Real two points clear of San Jose Earthquakes at the top of the Western Conference.
There was more late drama in the Pacific Northwest duel between Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. Kris Boyd put the Timbers ahead midway through the second half, with Darren Mattocks conjuring up a leveller for the Canadians with six minutes remaining, giving the Canadians their first ever points against the Oregon outfit. Over in the Eastern Conference, a Danny Koevermans goal two minutes from time brought an end to Toronto FC’s worst ever start to a season as they beat Philadelphia Union 1-0, their first points from their opening ten games.
In Uruguay Defensor clinched the Clausura title one game early to set up an overall championship decider with local rivals and Apertura winners Nacional, a repeat of last year’s final. Goals from Federico Pintos, captain Nicolas Olivera and Diego Ferreira earned Los Violetas a 3-0 defeat of El Tanque Sisley at home and maintained their unbeaten record in the Clausura, with 12 wins and two draws. Defensor’s appearance in the grand final is their fourth in the last five seasons.
In Chile meanwhile, three teams have now booked places in the semi-finals of the Apertura play-offs. After being held to a 3-3 draw at home in the first leg of their tie with Iquique, Colo Colo hit back with a 2-1 away win to go through. Union Espanola had less trouble in advancing, completing a 4-1 aggregate defeat of Universidad Catolica with a 1-1 draw away from home, their progress smoothed by three red cards for their opponents. O’Higgins joined them after beating Union La Calera for the second time in three days. In the first leg of the other quarter-final, Universidad de Chile put themselves in a strong position with a 2-0 win at Cobreloa.
Finally, the line-up for the Apertura play-offs in Colombia was decided at the weekend, with Deportes Tolima, Santa Fe, Itagui, Atletico Hulia, La Equidad, Deportivo Pasto, Boyaca Chico and Deportivo Cali the eight teams going forward to contest the title.