Traditional powers hold sway
Millions upon millions of Central American football fans have had their wishes granted this season. This because the region's biggest and most popular clubs have dominated proceedings over the last six months, and taken the lion's share of the available silverware.
Supporters of Costa Rican superpowers Deportivo Saprissa,
Honduras' Olimpia, Municipal of Guatemala, El Salvador's
Luis Angel Firpo and Panamanian outfit San Francisco all celebrated
title success, victories made sweeter in several cases by defeating
their biggest rivals in the championship decider.
Purple still the colour
At the start of every season in Costa Rican football, the debate rages about just how long Saprissa can continue to dominate the domestic scene, while the country's other eleven teams plot how to knock El Monstruo Morado (the Purple Monster) from their throne. Yet fast forward six months and serial-title winners Saprissa will be almost invariably be there, safe at the top of the tree.
This time around was no different, the Morado faithful also enjoying the added bonus of beating arch-rivals Alajuelense in the two-legged championship decider. Having eked out a slender 1-0 first-leg win on home turf at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, coach Jeaustin Campos adopted a defensive approach for his side's trip to the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto.
The tactic worked to perfection, the visitors able to comfortably repel Alajuelense's toothless attack and carve out a number of clear scoring opportunities of their own. With young keeper Keylor Navas defying the home side whenever called upon, the Morados kept things tight before striking the killer blow eight minutes from the end through Michael Barrantes.
The 2-0 aggregate win sealed a 27th league title for the club owned by Mexican businessman Jorge Vergara, three more than the all-time tally of their beaten opponents.
Narrow triumphs in Honduras and Guatemala
In several countries in the region the championship decider pitted the nation's two biggest clubs against each other. This was also the case in Honduras, where Olimpia got back on the trophy trail at the expense of fierce rivals Marathon.
Los Olímpicos, on a run of three domestic tournaments without a title, bounced back under the guidance of Mexican strategist Juan de Dios Castillo and ended Marathon's hopes of adding to their Apertura 2007 success.
The destination of the title was settled by the narrowest of margins, Olimpia's iconic goalscorer Wilmer Velasquez grabbing the tie's only goal. And though the newly crowned champions boast the country's biggest fan base, only 7,000 spectators were able to watch their side's victory after redevelopment work on the Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa saw the match moved the much smaller Estadio Comayagua.
Meanwhile over in Guatemala, Municipal and Comunicaciones went head-to-head yet again in the title decider. The Rojos and the Cremas have won nearly 50 titles between them and the much-lauded pair are frequent opponents in the always dramatic and emotionally-charged championship finale.
This time was no exception with the final result still in the balance right through to the end. With Municipal clinging on to their 4-3 aggregate lead, Comunicaciones launched wave after wave of attacks on their rivals' goal, but to avail. The Rojos' fans were therefore able to celebrate their 27th title success.
San Francisco and Firpo time it right
In late 2007, Luis Angel Firpo were making all the headlines on the El Salvador football scene. After nearly a decade of disappointment, Los Pamperos finally reclaimed a title that had been almost exclusively in their possession throughout the late 20th century.
Six months on and the club from Usulutlan, 110km from the capital San Salvador, are threatening to kick off another long period of domestic dominance after winning their second consecutive league crown in a dramatic match against San Salvador side FAS.
Neither side could tip the scales in their favour in normal time, and the scores remained level late into extra time. With just two minutes left on the clock and a shoot-out looming large, Firpo were awarded a penalty. Up stepped the Argentinian Guillermo Moran to score, thus sealing his club's ninth title and breaking the hearts of more than 25,000 fans packing the Cuscatlan stadium.
Further south in Panama, extra time was also needed in the battle to decide the new champions. San Francisco and Tauro, the country's two most powerful teams, were level at one apiece after 90 minutes. But Sanfran's superior fitness showed in the added period, goals from Lombardo and Temi Perez sealing an epic 3-1 win.
Only in Belize was a surprise the order of the day. A staggering 23 years since their last title, San Ignacio side Hankook Verdes overcame Belize Defense Force 2-1 on aggregate to end their drought and send their fans into raptures.