Pachuca CF are the CONCACAF Champions League winners for the fourth time in their history after a second half stoppage time winner from Edgar Benitez gave them a 1-0 win in the second leg of the final. Cruz Azul, who were going for a record extending sixth title, had won the first leg at home seven days earlier by two goals to one. The game was petering out into a goalless stalemate when Benitez struck from just inside the Cruz Azul penalty area to give Los Tuzos (The Gophers) the goal they craved and which sent the masses of Pachuca fans in the stadium into ecstasy. Not only does the victory give Pachuca their fourth continental title since 2002 but it also ensures their place in the FIFA Club World Cup which takes place at the end of the year in Abu Dhabi. Guillermo Rivarola, coach of the winning Pachuca side, said after the match “When we saw the ball hit the net, it was madness. There was tons of emotion. We all wanted to hug each other as the goal gave us the championship and the ticket to the Club World Cup. I really can’t describe it.”
See for yourself in the video below:
The AFC Champions League group stage has reached its conclusion and “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the action group by group:
GROUP A (Al-Gharafa 6/13; Esteghlal 6/11; Al-Ahli 6/6; Al-Jazira 6/4)
Qatari side Al-Gharafa topped the group after a slip up from Iranians Esteghlal on Matchday 6. Esteghlal led the way going into the final round of matches but were made to pay by bottom side Al-Jazira who chalked up their only win of the tournament thanks to goals from Saleh Basheer and Mousa Mohammed in a 2-1 win after Farhad Majidi had given Esteghlal the lead. Later in the day Al-Gharafa capitalised on the Tehran side’s slip up by defeating Saudis Al-Ahli by a single goal to nil thanks to Naseer Kamil’s stoppage time winner.
GROUP B (Zob Ahan 6/13; Bunyodkor 6/10; Al-Ittihad 6/8; Al-Wahda 6/3)
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Bunyodkor side had a major scare before sealing their place in the last sixteen of the competition. After Matchday 5 they were third in the group behind Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad and in serious danger of missing out on the knockout stage. Fortunately for the big money Uzbek side they went through thanks to a lot of luck. Firstly they were victorious in their final game against Al-Wahda on Matchday 6 with Rivaldo among the goals in a 4-1 win. Secondly group leaders Zob Ahan did Big Phil’s side a massive favour by defeating Al-Ittihad 1-0 with Mohammed Khalatbari’s 53rd minute strike enough to ensure the Saudi Arabians’ exit from the tournament.
GROUP C (Al-Shabab 6/10; Pakhtakor 6/9; Sepahan 6/8; Al-Ain 6/7)
Iranian league leaders Sepahan blew their opportunity to go through to the round of 16 as they suffered a 2-0 reverse away at bottom club Al-Ain on Matchday 6. Argentinian striker José Sand scored a brace to give a little respectabilty back to Al-Ain’s campaign. Saudi Arabian representatives Al-Shabab came from behind against Uzbekistanis Pakhtakor to win 2-1. After Sherzod Karimov had given Pakhtakor the lead eight minutes before half-time Al-Shabab came back well and turned it around thanks to goals from Marcelo Camacho and Flávio. The three points allowed Al-Shabab to gin first place at the expense of their opponents.
GROUP D (Al-Hilal 6/11; MES Kernan 6/9; Al-Sadd 6/8; Al-Ahli 6/5)
There was much drama in this group on Matchday 6 as three teams fought for two places to the knockout round of the tournament. The leadership of the group went to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal despite their 3-1 defeat to MES Kernan in the final round of matches and this meant that Al-Sadd had to win if they were to regain top spot whilst any other result would mean that they finish third behind MES Kernan and miss out altogether. Sadly for Al-Sadd they allowed Dubai based team Al-Ahli to equalise in the 90th minute of a game they’d fought so hard to win. After falling behind as early as the 14th minute Al-Sadd came from behind to go 2-1 up at the interval but, alas, heartbreak followed when Ali Abbas Al-Hosany equalised to give Al-Ahli a share of the spoils and, thus, deny Al-Sadd a berth in the last sixteen.
GROUP E (Seongnam Ilhwa 6/15; Beijing Guo’an 6/10; Kawasaki Frontale 6/6; Melbourne Victory 6/4)
It’s been a disappointing campaign for former Australian champions Melbourne Victory. Only weeks after losing their domestic crown to Sydney FC they saw their continental hopes go up in smoke. Koreans Seongnam Ilhwa were almost faultless in the group winning five games and going down to just one defeat at the hands of Kawasaki Frontale on Matchday 5. That victory gave Kawasaki the opportunity to progress to the round of 16 as runners up providing that they beat Chinese champions Beijing Guo’an on Matchday 6. Alas, Beijing made home advantage count by beating Frontale 2-0 thanks to goals from Joel Griffiths and Valdo.
GROUP F (Kashima Antlers 6/18; Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors 6/12; Changchun Yatai 6/3; Perispura Jayapura 6/3)
Japanese champions Kashima Antlers established themselves as one of the favourites to win the competition this year by blowing away all the opposition in the group stage to go through with a 100% record. South Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors suffered two defeats at the hands of the group leaders but were untroubled for the rest of the campaign to easily grab the second qualification spot. Indonesia’s Persipura Jayapura were the whipping boys of the group but even they had their moment of glory in their final game against Changchun Yatai to get three hard-earned points on the board.
GROUP G (Suwon Samsung 6/13; Gamba Osaka 6/12; Singapore Armed Forces 6/4; Henan Construction 6/3)
Suwon Samsung Bluewings overtook Japan’s Gamba Osaka at the top of the group thanks to a resounding 6-2 victory over Singapore Armed Forces in their final match. Gamba, meanwhile, were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw away at Chinese side Henan Construction which put paid to their hopes of qualifying as the group’s top side. What hurt most for Gamba Osaka was conceding a last minute equaliser to their hosts after the Japanese side had been ahead since Takashi Usami’s 39th minute opener. This meant that the Bluewings pipped Gamba Osaka to the group leadership by a solitary point but both teams will be, nevertheless, pleased to go through to the round of 16.
GROUP H (Adelaide United 6/10; Pohang Steelers 6/10; Sanfreece Hiroshima 6/9; Shandong Luneng 6/6)
Adelaide United and defending champions Pohang Steelers knew that they were through to the round of 16 before a ball was kicked on Matchday 6 but both teams still wanted to top the group. Despite both teams positions they both went down to defeats in the final round of group matches with Adelaide losing 1-0 to Chinese side Shandong Luneng thanks to Li Wei’s 53rd minute strike whilst Pohang Steelers were involved in a very topsy-turvy game against Japanese outfit Sanfreece Hiroshima. The Japanese side were 3-1 up at half-time but the Steelers showed their resolve to bring the game back to level terms midway through the second half. Surprisingly Sanfreece Hiroshima scored the winner with nine minutes remaining to deny Pohang Steelers the point they needed to secure top spot in the group.
ROUND OF 16
Al-Gharafa (Qatar) v Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan)
Al-Shabab (Saudi Arabia) v Esteghlal (Iran)
Zob Ahan (Iran) v MES Kernan (Iran)
Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia) v Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan)
Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (South Korea) v Gamba Osaka (Japan)
Suwon Samsung Bluewings (S.Korea) v Beijing Guo’an (China)
Kashima Antlers (Japan) v Pohang Steelers (S.Korea)
Adelaide United (Australia) v Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (S.Korea)
Matches to be played on May 11-12
Canada is preparing itself for the third edition of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship which takes place from April 28th with the first game between Toronto FC and Montreal Impact and finishes on June 2nd with Toronto’s final match of the tournament at home to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Toronto FC, who won the event last season on goal difference from Vancouver, are favourites to win their second title but there’s a chance that they could play weakened teams in the event which runs along the Major League Soccer (MLS) season. Neither Vancouver nor Montreal are MLS teams yet although the former have been officially announced as an expansion city for 2011 with the latter hoping to join them not long after. Nonetheless the tournament will prove to be very competitive as it has been in the previous two years of the event.
The inaugural championship kicked off on the 27th May, 2008 with Toronto FC defeating their hosts from Montreal 1-0 thanks to a lone strike from Puerto Rican defender Marco Vélez. That, however, was to be Montreal’s only defeat in the tournament as they defeated Vancouver home and away before securing a point away at Toronto who surprisingly lost points at Vancouver to gift the Impact the first ever Canadian Championship tournament by two points. The second tournament in 2009 was a two-horse race between Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps. Toronto FC defeated Vancouver 1-0 on the opening day of the tournament but Vancouver would get their own back on Matchday 5 with a 2-0 home victory. Thismeant that both teams matches against the Impact would gain significance especially as both teams won all their matches against Montreal. On Matchday 6, the final match of the event, Toronto FC heavily defeated the Impact at their home stadium 6-1 to shade the title on goal difference from Vancouver and take the Voyageurs Cup.
In each case the winners of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship went on to receive a berth in the qualifying rounds of the CONCACAF Champions League and this season is no different, therefore underlying how important this competition is to those concerned. Naturally Toronto FC are the favourites to win it again due to their greater experience but one cannot rule out the others completely in such a short tournament.
NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP
April 28th: Toronto FC v Montreal Impact
May 5th: Vancouver Whitecaps v Montreal Impact
May 12th: Montreal Impact v Toronto FC
May 19th: Vancouver Whitecaps v Toronto FC
May 26th: Montreal Impact v Vancouver Whitecaps
June 2nd: Toronto FC v Vancouver Whitecaps
Mexico’s Torneo Bicentenario has reached the end of the regular season and eight teams have qualified for the knockout stage after seventeen gruelling matches. Monterrey CF, who won the Torneo Apertura which constituted the first half of the season, had the best record out of all eighteen teams who, in turn, were split into three distinct groups. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the group standings and looks forward to the play-offs:
GROUP 1 (Guadalajara 17 games/32 points; Toluca 17/30; Atlas 17/24; Querétaro 17/21; Ciudad Juárez 17/15; San Luis 17/14)
Guadalajara topped the group by just two points from Toluca with both teams easily among the best eight in the country. Guadalajara, more commonly known as Chivas, were already assured the top spot in the group as they began the final round of matches four points ahead of their nearest challengers. They ended their campaign against CONCACAF Champions League finalists Cruz Azul with a 1-1 draw whilst Toluca finished with a flourish thanks to a 2-1 over Puebla. Third place Atlas had the tenth best record out of all the teams and, alas, failed to qualify for the next stage.
GROUP 2 (Monterrey 17/36; Club América 17/25; Morelia 17/25; Pachuca 17/25; Chiapas 17/19; Puebla 17/19)
Monterrey coach Víctor Manuel Vucetich has already led his team to the Torneo Apertura this season and his team’s chances of completing a double title triumph are good seeing as they finished the regular season with the best record, therefore guaranteeing themselves the number one seeding for the play-offs. They completed the regular season with a 1-1 draw to third place Morelia who were tied on twenty five points in Group 2 along with Club América and CONCACAF Champions League finalists Pachuca, all of whom qualifed for the play-offs by virtue of having a better goal difference than Cruz Azul from Group 3 who also finished on 25 points after seventeen games.
GROUP 3 (UNAM 17/28; Santos Laguna 17/28; Cruz Azul 17/25; Estudiantes Tecos 17/19; Tigres 17/19; Atlante 17/17)
Both of the top two teams in this group could afford to lose their final round of matches as they had already sealed their place in the top eight teams. UNAM, also known as Pumas, lost 2-0 away at Ciudad Juárez whilst Santos Laguna lost 1-0 away at Club América, a result which guaranteed the home side’s passage into the play-offs. Cruz Azul, who currently lead 2-1 after the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Pachuca, needed to win to guarantee themselves a place in the Bicentenario play-offs but were thwarted by Chivas Guadalajara who held them to a 1-1 draw. The two points dropped by Cruz Azul meant that they lost out on a place in the last eight by virtue of having an inferior goal difference to Club América, Morelia and Pachuca.
Monterrey CF v Pachuca CF
Guadalajara v Morelia
Toluca v Club América
UNAM v Santos Laguna
1st Leg – May 1/2; 2nd Leg – May 8/9
The second round of the two major African club tournaments began this weekend with the first leg of each tie played from Friday to Sunday. In both competitions there was a winner in all but one match so a number of the clubs participating in Africa’s club competitions can fancy their chances of further progress. The winners of each two-legged tie in the African Champions League will go forward to the group stage whilst the eight losers will join the remaining eight teams in the CAF Confederation Cup to play another knockout round in that competition before that descends into its group phase section. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the events over the last three days:
ST Espérance got off to a great start in their second round match against Al-Merreikh of Sudan on Friday going into the half-time break with a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Michael Eneramo, Aymen Ben Omar and Oussama Darragi and that was how it stayed to give the Tunisian club a healthy advantage going into the second leg. Libyans Ittihad also triumphed on Friday with a 2-0 defeat of six-time African champions Al-Ahly from Egypt thanks to strikes from Younes Shibani and Ahmed Zuway.
On Saturday ES Sétif overcame the tough challenge of Zambian side Zanaco FC thanks to a lone Mourad Delhoum strike in the 73rd minute. The second game on Saturday saw the first stalemate of the round with South African champions SuperSport United coming back to claim a 1-1 draw at home to Nigerians Heartland FC. Defending champions TP Mazembe hold a narrow advantage from their Sunday night match against Malians Djoliba with Mputu Mabi’s 53rd penalty giving the title holders a 1-0 victory. There were also wins for Algerians JS Kabylie (2-0 v Atlético Petróleos), Egyptian side Ismaily (1-0 v Al-Hilal Omdurman) and Zimabawean representatives Dynamos (4-1 v Gaborone United) to complete the first leg action.
The Confederation Cup 2nd round also began on Friday with defending title holders Stade Malien going down to a 2-0 defeat away at FUS Rabat. Goals from Alhassane Issoufou and Souleymane Dembele gave the Moroccans a crucial two goal cushion before the second leg in a fortnight’s time. Two-time winners CS Sfaxien from Tunisia will be satisifed with a 1-1 away draw against Egyptians Petrojet. The latter’s compatriots Haras El Hodood fared no better in their 2nd round encounter with Simba SC going down to a 2-1 defeat in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam. Other winners in the first legs are Nigerians Warri Wolves (2-1 v CAPS United), Amal Atbara (1-0 v Belouizdad), AS Vita Club (3-0 v Enyimba), Primerio de Agosto (2-1 v Cotonsport) and ASFAN (1-0 v Motema Pembe).
The New Saints, from the area in the United Kingdom covering Oswestry (in England) and Llansantffraid (in Wales), have won the Principality Welsh Premier League title after a nail biting climax to the season this Saturday. The club have become famous in the UK in recent years thanks to Sky Sports TV presenter Jeff Stelling who, after all of the day’s football results are read out, will often (sarcastically) claim that “they’ll be dancing on the streets of TNS tonight” after every victory that is announced in favour of the club. If it is the case that the club and its followers like to get down after every victory then they’ll be dancing a bit heavier after TNS secured their fifth championship with a 3-1 away win at Aberystwyth Town.
Before Matchday 34 got under way there was one team, Llanelli AFC, who could snatch the title from TNS’s grasp as they started the day just two points behind the league leaders. Llanelli AFC were playing at Prestatyn Town whilst Aberystwyth were not going to make things easy for TNS as they were fighting it out for third in the table, and a place in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers for 2010-11, against Port Talbot Town. With all matches in the league kicking off at the same time followers of TNS must’ve been nervous as news reached them that their title rivals Llanelli AFC had a 2-1 half-time lead whilst their match remained goalless. However the goals started to fly in during the second half with Chris Sharp, son of legendary Everton FC striker Graeme Sharp, bagging a brace and Steve Evans scoring once with Aberystwyth Town scoring a consolation through Luke Bowen in stoppage time. Llanelli AFC did all they could in their match eventually disposing of Prestatyn Town by 5-1 with Rhys Griffiths helping himself to a hat trick but it was TNS’s day. The New Saints qualify for the 2010-11 UEFA Champions League qualification rounds whilst Aberystwyth lamented defeat as it ruined their chances of UEFA Europa League qualification after Port Talbot’s 0-0 draw with Bala Town allowed them to secure third place.
The Principality Welsh Premier League is undergoing fundamental change next season with the number of particpiating teams being reduced from twenty down to twelve. The bottom six teams this season – Newtown AFC, GAP Connah’s Quay, Porthmadog FC, Welshpool Town, Caersws FC and Newi Cefn Druids – are now relegated and two more teams could join them. Bala Town FC and Haverfordwest County finished in 11th and 12th place respectively and their position in the Premier League is dependent on finding replacements from the second tier who will have the necessary facilities and finance to operate in the top flight.
Glasgow Rangers have secured yet another Scottish Premier League (SPL) title taking their record to an amazing fifty three championships. For Rangers coach Walter Smith it is the 9th league title that he has won in two separate spells at the Ibrox club but his future is now uncertain, especially as he has been working without a contract since January due to the club’s financial worries.
Their neighbours Glasgow Celtic had won earlier in the day away at Dundee United. Diomansy Kamara and Robbie Keane gave the Bhoys a 2-0 victory in a bad tempered match which, at least, gave Celtic the satisfaction of knowing that their arch rivals still had a bit of work to do before they could be crowned champions. Rangers had to win their away match at Hibernian to seal the title today otherwise the trip to Tannadice Park on May 1st against Dundee United would’ve been their next opportunity. Nonetheless the destination of the SPL has been on the cards for some time and it is credit to Walter Smith for having steered his troops comfortably to the trophy in a season when he has had no money to bring in new players.
The only goal of the game was scored by Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty whose 17th minute strike proved enough to give Rangers all three points. Sadly for Rangers only 1,500 of their supporters were allowed into Easter Road to watch the game due to the construction work that is taking place on the stadium at the moment. Despite this the club’s players and staff began the party in earnest as soon as the final whistle sounded amongst whom was David Weir, the club captain who is just a couple of weeks off his 40th birthday and has played in every match for Rangers in their successful league campaign this season.
The triumph completes a successful season for the Gers who also won the Scottish League Cup against St Mirren in late March although their ambitions for a treble were thwarted by Dundee United in the Scottish Cup three days after their Hampden Park success. Nonetheless it will be interesting to see what comes about throughout the post season period as Rangers’ thoughts now surely must turn towards winning three-in-a-row next season.
Greek Super League champions Panathinaikos are celebrating winning their first league and cup double since 2004 after they defeated Aris Thessaloniki 1-0 in the Greek Cup final on Saturday. Argentinian Sebastián Leto scored the only goal midway through the second half to give Prasinoi (the Greens) victory in a memorable season. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the 2009-10 season in Greece.
Before the season got under way many were asking if anybody could halt the juggernault that was Olympiakos, the perennial Greek champions having won thirteen of the previous fourteen league titles. In that time Panathinaikos’ 2004 triumph was the only time that Thrylos (the Legend) had gone without the trophy. However there were to be hard times ahead for Olympiakos as they sacked two coaches, Temuri Ketsbaia and Zico, during the season despite only losing four league games in the campaign. Current coach Božidar Bandović was able to take the title race to the penultimate game of the season but it was clear that Panathinaikos, whose coach Henk Ten Cate left during the season through mutual consent, were the most consistent side throughout the campaign and they had the league’s top scorer Djibril Cissé. The Frenchman scored twenty-one goals on the way to leading his team to a six point title triumph over Olympiakos and a further two ahead of third place PAOK Thessaloniki. PAOK had a very respectable campaign and, at one point, threatened to take the title over the Big Two but had a little less strength in depth than their title rivals, dropping points towards the end of the season. In the end it was Panathinaikos who held their nerve and claimed their 20th league championship in the process.
In the race for European places there are four teams who will compete in the end of season play-offs for the second UEFA Champions League for next season with each team allocated a number of points depending on where they finished in the regular season. Second place Olympiakos start with four points, one ahead of PAOK. AEK Athens, who had a truly bad start to the season, will begin the play-offs with one point while fifth place Aris will begin pointless. Each team will play each other in a home and away round robin with the leader after six games claiming the spot in Europe’s top club competition next season. At the bottom of the Super League it was a very difficult campaign for Panthrakikos who didn’t win a league game until Matchday 20 by which time they were as good as relegated. They will be joined in the second division next season by PAS Giannina and Levadiakos, the latter were unlucky to be the final team to go down as anyone up to Larissa in eighth place could’ve gone down with only three points separating those teams after thirty games.
The final of the Kypello Elladas (Greek Cup) pitted champions Panathinaikos against Aris Thessaloniki, the latter hoping to win their second cup title after their one and only to date in 1970. However the final didn’t really live up to the billing as both teams cancelled each other out for large chunks of the game. The game was 63 minutes old when the crucial moment arrived. Former Liverpool player Sebastián Leto hit a hopeful shot from 30 yards out which bounced twice along the ground before finding the back of the net. Aris tried to attack the Pana goal late on the game in the hope of finding that all important equalizer to take the game into extra-time but it wasn’t to be. Panathinaikos secured their 17th Greek Cup triumph and, with it, their seventh league and cup double.
Waitakere United have won their second New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC) title after a 3-1 defeat of underdogs Canterbury United in Saturday’s final. Canterbury United had shocked everybody by knocking out defending champions Auckland City in the semi-finals and were facing a Waitakere side who, only last week, were heavily defeated in the first leg of the Oceania Champions League final. Waitakere, however, showed their strength to ensure that the NZFC title remains in the city of Auckland, which it has done since the league’s inception in 2004.
Waitakere United were the hosts of the sixth NZFC Grand Final due to their superior record in the regular season. Waitakere finished second in the table just two points behind minor premiers Auckland City. Canterbury United squeaked into the play-offs on the last day of the regular season pipping Otago United into fourth place thanks to a better goal difference. In the semi-finals both teams overcame tough ties with Waitakere United getting the better of Team Wellington on away goals whilst Canterbury United secured an unlikely 4-2 triumph over Auckland City. Canterbury’s only ever appearence in the NZFC final came in the 2005-06 season where they lost to Auckland City in a penalty shoot-out so the Dragons were hoping to go one better this time.
The chances of another shock were increased after just six minutes of the game when Tom Lancaster gave the visiting Canterbury side an early lead. Waitakere were on the back foot but the early goal had the effect of waking up the home side who equalised ten minutes before half-time thanks to prolific Soloman Islands striker Benjamin Totori. The turning point of the game occurred just three minutes later when Canterbury’s Paul Dirou was sent-off after a high challenge on Jason Rowely and, although the first half would finish all square, the home side would make full use of their numerical advantage in the second half. Allan Pearce, who would go on to win the Man of the Match award, gave Waitakere United the lead on 57 minutes shooting home from the edge of the box. The match was sealed seventeen minutes from time when Waitakere captain Jake Butler slipped through a lovely through ball to Benjamin Totori who rounded helpless keeper Tom Batty to score his second goal of the game and give the home side a healthy two goal lead which they saw out easily in the time remaining.
Waitakere United will represent New Zealand in the 2010-11 OFC Champions League (O-League) along with Auckland City who gained the reward for finishing minor premiers. Canterbury United can be proud of their efforts as they came so close to winning the title after having been the worst team in the league in the previous two seasons. For Waitakere United there isn’t much time to celebrate their domestic crown as they hope to overturn a three goal deficit at home to Papua New Guinea side Hekari United in the second leg of the 2009-10 O-League final next Saturday.
The group stage of the Copa Libertadores is finally over. Having begun on February 9th it has taken over two months to complete, mainly due to finding time in the already crowded fixture lists of the many clubs that take part in the competition. Mexican clubs San Luis and Guadalajara have a bye to the knockout phase due to their inability to complete last season’s tournament due to the Swine Flu outbreak, therefore eight group winners and only the best six runners-up would progress to the next round. Thankfully “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” can now review the group stage of South America’s elite club competition:
GROUP 1 (Corinthians 6 games/16 points; Racing 6/8; I.Medellin 6/6; C.Porteño 6/2)
Brazilian giants Corinthians easily topped this group dropping just two points in the whole league stage, a 1-1 draw away at Colombian side Independiente Medellin on Matchday 2. Not only did they win the group but they had the best record out of all the teams in the group stage, thus guaranteeing them the number one seed for the rest of the competition. Group runner-up Racing from Uruguay were unlucky in that their record of eight points from six games wasn’t good enough to gain a place in the last sixteen.
GROUP 2 (São Paulo 6/13; Once Caldas 6/11; Monterrey 6/6; Nacional 6/3)
Three times Libertadores champions São Paulo secured the leadership of the group on Matchday 6 with a hard-fought 1-0 win over 2004 winners Once Caldas. This allowed the Brazilians to leapfrog their Colombian opponents into first place with thirteen points from six games, two ahead of their nearest challengers. Mexicans Monterrey had already secured third in the table when losing their Matchday 6 game against wooden spoonists Nacional of Paraguay.
GROUP 3 (Estudiantes de La Plata 6/13; Alianza Lima 6/12; Juan Aurich 6/6; Bolivar 6/4)
Defending champions Estudiantes de La Plata secured the top of the group in the most dramatic fashion on Matchday 6 with club legend Juan Sebastián Verón scoring the winner against Alianza Lima five minutes into second half stoppage time. The Peruvians did have the consolation of knowing that they’d qualified for the knockout stage in any case but the late defeat was still a bitter pill to swallow. Bolivians Bolivar beat Peruvians Juan Aurich 2-0 on Matchday 6 to give a little respectability to their overall record but they still finished two points behind their opponents in the table.
GROUP 4 (Libertad 6/12; Universitario 6/10; Lanús 6/8; Blooming 6/1)
Paraguay’s Libertad knew that they had the group as good as won when they went to play Bolivians Blooming on Matchday 6. With Blooming having the second worst record in the tournament the Paraguayans secured top spot with a 2-1 away win. The pressure was on in the other Matchday 6 tie between Universitario and Lanús who were both looking for the second place in the group and hoping to squeeze into the knockout stage. Peruvians Universitario edged it over their Argentinian counterparts courtesy of a goalless draw which allowed the U‘s to progress with a two point cushion over Lanús.
GROUP 5 (Internacional 6/12; Deportivo Quito 6/10; Cerro 6/8; Emelec 6/2)
Porto Alegre based Internacional, Libertadores champions in 2006, edged out their nearest challengers from Ecuador on Matchday 6 when they easily disposed of Deportivo Quito 3-0 at home to secure top spot. Unfortunately for Deportivo there is now no chance that they an emulate their compatriots LDU in winning the tournament (LDU were the first Ecuadorian Libertadores champions in 2008) because they had the second worst record of those teams finishing second in their group, their negative goal difference after six games was instrumental in them losing out.
GROUP 6 (Nacional 6/12; Banfield 6/11; Morelia 6/5; Deportivo Cuenca 6/4)
Three time Libertadores champions Nacional of Montevideo just shaded current Argentinian champions Banfield into first place in what was a real fight to the end for the top two. Nacional’s 2-0 away win against Banfield in Matchday 4 proved to be the real difference between the two sides as both sides matched each other’s result’s in the final two matches of the group. Matchday 6 saw Banfield easily brush aside the challenge of Ecuadorians Deportivo Cuenca winning 4-1 but the Uruguayans secured top spot with a 2-0 home win over Mexican side Morelia. Both sides will now face tough Brazilian opposition in the next round of the tournament.
GROUP 7 (Vélez Sársfield 6/13; Cruzeiro 6/11; Colo-Colo 6/8; Deportivo Italia 6/1)
In the only group containing three former South American champion clubs the group was effectively decided before a ball was kicked on Matchday 6. If Chileans Colo-Colo were to have any hope of qualifying they had to put a cricket score past second place Cruzeiro just to have a chance of getting the last place amongst the second-placed group qualifiers. In any case the Brazilians, containing the group stage’s top scorer Kléber, got a point in a 1-1 draw to finish three points ahead of the Chileans. Vélez Sársfield, champions of this tournament in 1994, hammered Venezuelan outfit Deportivo Italia 4-0 in their last match to finish two points ahead of Cruzeiro and will play Guadalajara in the next round.
GROUP 8 (Universidad de Chile 6/12; Flamengo 6/10; Universidad Católica 6/7; Caracas FC 6/2)
With two Chilean clubs in this group football took a back seat during the campaign as the terrible earthquake that hit the country in February affected the nation and its people badly. Understandably the clubs didn’t wish to play football at that time but later resumed their participation in the competition. Universidad de Chile toped the group by two points from Brazilian champions Flamengo as the Chileans took four points from the Rio giants in their two matches, the extra points for Universidad proving to be the difference between topping the group and coming second.
KNOCKOUT STAGE DRAW (Home teams in first leg on the left)
Flamengo (Brazil) - Corinthians (Brazil)
Universitario (Peru) – São Paulo (Brazil)
San Luis (Mexico) – Estudiantes de La Plata (Argentina)
Guadalajara (Mexico) – Vélez Sársfield (Argentina)
Once Caldas (Colombia) – Libertad (Paraguay)
Banfield (Argentina) - Internacional (Brazil)
Cruzeiro (Brazil) – Nacional (Uruguay)
Alianza Lima (Peru) – Universidad de Chile (Chile)
1st Legs from April 28th; 2nd Legs from May 5th